Rib, chicken cookoff set

WHEELING — Meat-lovers and barbecue fans are looking forward to one of Wheeling Heritage Port’s most popular annual events: The Ohio Valley Rib & Chicken Cookoff.

Five competing barbecue vendors will line Heritage Port from noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday trying to win over the judges and patrons in hopes of leaving with top awards. There will be live entertainment throughout both days as well as various other food and craft vendors, a beer garden and a cornbag toss tournament.

Valley residents will gather for food and fun, which is what event coordinator Bill Brooks hopes to achieve each year.

“We bring people together to eat,” Brooks said. “We bring people of all heritages together because if you can have fun together, you can live together.”

This year’s five competing vendors are Big Girls BBQ, Smoke Shack BBQ, Chuck Wagon BBQ, Big Pappy BBQ and Chillin with Dave BBQ.

The chief judge’s role, taken on this year by WesBanco Arena’s Sonya Fedorko, is to oversee the other judges and tabulate their votes. The process is a “blind judging,” meaning the judges will not know which vendor cooked what dishes during the voting.

The vendor that receives the most combined points for ribs and chicken will receive the coveted Carl Carenbauer Grand Champion Award. There will be a WesBanco trophy for best chicken, a Visit Wheeling trophy for best ribs, sponsored by the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Wal-Mart People’s Choice Award, which is decided by the patrons’ votes.

The event is free to attend, but the food, drinks and merchandise will be sold individually by the vendors. The rib and chicken vendors will offer sample sizes as well as half-rack and full-rack rib portions.

After six years, the response has been “fantastic,” according to Brooks, and it has gotten bigger over the years.

Friday’s live entertainment will include the New Silver Eagle Band, Ohio Valley Promenaders, Two Bridges and Sara Hays Band. The New Silver Eagle Band, Two Bridges, Ron Retzer Trio and Remedy Band will perform on Saturday.

“It’s a really nice time together,” said Doug Hennen, one of this year’s judges and former chief judge. “I’ll be enjoying the eating and the drinking. You can’t beat it.”

Sponsors for the sixth-annual Ohio Valley Rib & Chicken Cook Off are Carenbauer Distributing Corp.; Fitzsimmons Law Firm; Kroger; Rich & Shirley’s Quick Print; Wal-Mart; WesBanco; the Wheeling-Ohio County CVB; the city of Wheeling; the West Virginia Commission on the Arts; the Ohio County Commission; and the state of West Virginia.