Hello – my name is Aaron Mook, and you might recognize me from such past features as “Aaron Eats Erie” and “Gig Life: Six Days on the Road with Aaron Mook.” Every so often, the Edge team will brainstorm some regular feature ideas that we believe will appeal to both our local audience as well as those with an interest in Gannon. We try thinking of ideas that can sustain themselves for a fair amount of time, and now, with an entire summer of working in Erie ahead of me, we’ve decided to look into some businesses and events exclusive to Erie.
It is my hope, then, that you will not be disappointed by the first entry in a brand new series, “Only in Erie,” due to the fact that it’s not entirely exclusive to Erie. The Erie Ribfest is an annual barbecue festival and celebration of food, music and other kinds of entertainment. While the only thing that separates The Erie Ribfest from other barbeque festivals is its location, it’s happening is like a second Christmas for a young barbecue connoisseur like myself. And so, for the third year in a row, I set out with some friends to experience the sights, sounds, and above all, sauces of Erie’s premiere celebration of food.
Despite a new tent popping up every other year or so, the vendors generally stay the same; names like Armadillo BBQ and Pigfoot span banners in wildly colored lettering, hovering just above at least ten feet of banners and trophies. Thus creates one of the toughest decisions for those in search of ribs at the Erie Ribfest; if a half-rack is going to run me $15, where should I invest? Do I go out for something new and exciting with the possibility of disappointment, or do play it safe and retreat to the Jack Daniels tent where a spray bottle full of whiskey is applied to your ribs, evaporating as it touches the warm slabs of meat?
I chose to play it safe – at first, anyways. Besides, this was before receiving my first big boy paycheck of the season a few days later. As a professional with an interest in investigative journalism (as showcased by this article), you better believe I went back prepared to try some new things. You know what they say: you have to spend bones to eat bones.
Get it? Because they’re ribs.
Anyways, I’d had my fill of ribs, so this time, I decided to meet a personal goal of mine. I wanted to try something new, and decidedly, that something would be brisket. I know, I know; what kind of self-professed barbecue connoisseur hasn’t had brisket before? Well, ladies and gentlemen, despite a love for food, I am a very picky eater, and eating my first brisket sandwich was a personal milestone for me, so let’s get back to the story.
I had my brisket, but because I was feeling particularly ~saucy~ (more rib puns) with this paycheck of mine, I decided to share the wealth and purchase a massive, deep friend “blooming onion” to share with my barbecue loving friends. For those of you who may not be familiar, a blooming onion is essentially a portion of half-onion rings about the size of your head and arranged in the shape of a flower or cactus blossom (as pictured). In other words, they are amazing.
The fun didn’t stop there; as a local band of teens played Fall Out Boy and Green Day covers in the distance, we even decided to brave the mysterious “Hot Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich” booth, which is exactly what it sounds like and twice as delicious.
Earlier, I mentioned location being the only tangible thing that separated the Erie Ribfest from other barbecue festivals, but that’s also not entirely true. Quite frankly, between the artisan vendors, the entertainment (from bounce houses to live wrestling) and the variety of food, I’m finding it tough to mention everything that can be found during Erie’s premier food festival. And perhaps that’s the way it should be; only in Erie can you experience the way an event like the Erie Ribfest brings our community (and several Edge staff members) together.