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Published June 06, 2012, 11:30 PM

Benshoof: Digging in and chowing down at my first RibFest

In the past couple of weeks, there’s been quite a buzz about the approaching four-day RibFest. But as someone who only moved to Fargo last fall, I had never experienced the event before, and I couldn’t help but wonder – what’s all the fuss about?

In the past couple of weeks, there’s been quite a buzz about the approaching four-day RibFest.

But as someone who only moved to Fargo last fall, I had never experienced the event before, and I couldn’t help but wonder – what’s all the fuss about?

Sure, I like ribs, and I like barbecue, but still, RibFest was all everyone’s been talking about lately.

So, Wednesday morning, with some advice from rib taste-tester and RibFest judge Griff Potter under my belt, I headed over to check it out.

Even just minutes after the gates opened at 11, lines were already 10-people deep and growing quickly.

Hurriedly, I looked over my options – I needed to pick which rib vendor to go to before I was overwhelmed by the masses.

I was having trouble, though – each vendor’s booth stood like a castle, rising high in the parking lot, decorated by flags and banners proclaiming its past victories and awards. It was hard to tell them apart.

Porky-N-Beans initially caught my attention with a Fargo “defending champions” banner, although Cowboy’s BBQ suspiciously had a nearly identical sign right next to it.

I mean, really. How’s a guy to choose?

Eventually, I opted for Porky-N-Beans, just based on the length of the line alone.

With a one-third rack of ribs in hand, I chowed down, more concerned about keeping my work clothes clean than what a mess I may have looked like. There are plenty of industrial wet towels for when you’re done eating, after all.

At that moment, I remembered something that Griff Potter told me about the appeal of ribs when I interviewed him for a story last week: There’s something primeval about the food, he told me, about picking up a piece of meat and eating it with your hands.

There’s also something about the smoke and the fire involved with ribs that creates a sense of connectedness, he said, and in looking around at the seating area, I got the sense that was true: Hundreds of people, like me, didn’t really appear to be all that self-conscious about the mess they’ve created.

And some people were anything but clean eaters.

Don’t worry, I noticed.

For a part of the country that’s not well known for its ribs or barbecue, Fargo certainly seems to appreciate the food. After the gates had only been open for an hour, the food lines were now 30 people deep or longer.

I wanted to try different vendors and different sauces, but large crowds make me want to stay away, no matter the setting.

So I headed back to work with a full stomach (and hopefully a clean shirt), planning my next return visit (a tip if you haven’t gone yet: arrive early).

On the way out, I passed Johnson’s BBQ booth with its firestarter sauce that promises to “enhance your libido.”

Maybe tomorrow.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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