The 15th Ribs, Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll celebration, which takes place today and tomorrow, Sept. 6 and 7, will feature all the favorites fans have come to expect: live music, delicious food, the ever-growing car show, a poker run, kids’ inflatables, a cornhole tournament and more.

Organizer and Ribs, Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll volunteer Scott Druecker is excited for all of it: “I always look forward to the People’s Choice competitions and the Larry Mart corncob cooking demo and samples. Friday night, the People’s Choice Wing War and Saturday’s Pulled Pork competitions provide a lot of food for a reasonable price. I love the variety since there are usually about 10 different teams competing.”

This year’s Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll celebration kicks off at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6, with live music by Mrs. Begley and the Boys. The ribfest food court, live music, and beer garden will run from 5 p.m. that evening until midnight. The family fun area, which features inflatables and other activities for children, will be open from 5 until 8 p.m. Friday. And the popular cooking competition, “Wing War,” takes place from 5:30 until 7 p.m., so make sure to come out and cast your vote for People’s Choice.

Meanwhile, a Cornhole (bean bag) Tournament will take over Main Street beginning at 6 p.m. that evening. Get registered beginning at 5 p.m. for that event. Last year was the first year a bean bag tournament was added to the Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll line-up. It has quickly become a favorite for festival goers, say organizers.

Friday night, the Walmart Kids Q Competition takes place at 6:30 p.m. with judging at 7:30 p.m. There are two ages of competition -- Grill Masters (ages 7 to 11 years old) and Pit Masters (ages 12 to 16 years old). Come watch these young masters at work.

Musical entertainment by The Black Water Band will close out the Friday night line-up, starting at 9 p.m. and running until midnight.

Saturday, cars and motorcycles will take over Main Street as entries for the car and motorcycle show arrive between 9 a.m. and noon. The Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll beer garden and food court will be open at 10 a.m. alongside the Family Fun Area (which stays open until 8 p.m.).

The Classic Car & Cycle Show & Shine runs from noon until 4 p.m. Don’t miss Larry Mart’s Corn Cob Cooking Demonstration at 2 p.m. Corn cob cooking is one of the things that sets Vermillion’s Ribs event apart from others. In fact, Vermillion’s Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll event may be the only competition in the nation that features corn cob cooking, said Druecker.

“Anyone can do it, but it isn’t very efficient,” he said. “It takes more work and monitoring to get the cooking correct. And you have to find a source or collect the cobs yourself. … The ribs are usually done about 2 pm. They will be setup in the intersection of Market and Kidder streets. Samples will be available.”

Corn cob cooking has a unique history in southeastern South Dakota. In 1940, a group of barbeque enthusiasts from Norway Township, west of Vermillion, hosted a rib feed. Because traditional barbeque heat sources like hickory and fruitwood were hard to come by, this group, which came to be known as the Norway Rib Eaters, invented and perfected the use of corncobs as a heat source.

Corncobs were plentiful, but burning cobs produced a level of heat far too intense for the low and slow heat needed to properly barbeque ribs, so some creative problem solving was needed. The Norway Rib Eaters found that by pre-burning the cobs in a small pile until they cooked down to embers, a scoop shovel could then be used to place the coals under the grates of makeshift grills.

“Cooking over cobs is more than a barbeque process; it is a tradition that is representative of the heritage of the Vermillion area and the State of South Dakota,” Druecker said. “The people of the Vermillion community and the Norway Township are proud to claim this unique cooking process as our own.”

Today, the process of corncob cooking is a challenge because very few farmers shell corn as they once did, so finding a source of cobs can be a real challenge.

“There are still some hardcore traditionalists that make the effort to find those remaining cobs in an effort to perpetuate a barbeque technique rich in South Dakota history,” said Druecker.

Rib cooking contests and public celebrations are part of Vermillion’s heritage. In some form, first through the Norway Rib Eaters and later though other community events sponsored by the Jaycees and others, Vermillion has hosted frequent barbeque celebrations since the 1940s.

“Jody and Marcia Harnois really get credit for [the current event] Ribs, Rods and Rock-n-Roll,” said Druecker. “They were involved with the Jaycees who hosted a similar event. After the Jaycees stopped, Jody and Marcia kept it going until Ribs, Rods and Rock ‘n Roll was incorporated as a non-profit in 2009. They continue to use the practice [of corncob cooking] in their catering business and keep people informed of the local history related to the practice.

“Ribs, Rods and Rock ‘n Roll annually awards the Heck Harnois award, named for Jody’s grandfather, to a member of the community that has been supportive of the event, Vermillion and preserving its heritage,” he said.

After witnessing the unique corncob cooking demonstration Saturday afternoon and sampling the amazing barbeque it produces, don’t miss the Pulled Pork People’s Choice judging from 2 until 3:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., catch the People’s Choice Public Barbeque Judging and watch the South Dakota BBQ Championship Awards presentation. The Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll Poker Run will begin at 4 p.m.

Live music begins on Saturday at 5 p.m. with the band Quazy. The band Diablo Sammich closes out the 2019 Ribs, Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll festival from 9 p.m. until midnight.

Proceeds from the Rods, and Rock ‘n Roll car show poker run, donations, and sales during the event help fund scholarships for local students attending technical and trade schools.

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