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'Family of ribbers' delivers sweet and smoky choices at annual Elgin Ribfest

Families came out to sample the options at this weekend's Ribfest in Elgin.

The aroma of hot ribs filled the air at Festival Park in Elgin — all for a good cause.

Elgin's Ribfest showcased five award-winning ribbers serving up racks of pork ribs, brisket and other barbecue specialties.


It was difficult for some to pick a favorite.

"It's hard to choose — everything looks so amazing," East Dundee resident Natalie Berman said.


Organizers made sure rib lovers had a variety to choose from by doing their research of what's popular on the festival circuit.

"The ribs are the main attraction," said Paulette Lewis of NTD Events. "We go out and taste-test ribs to make sure we offer a quality of grilled ribs people are looking.”

The actual grill display and social media presence is key as well, Lewis said.

New to the festival were Aussom Aussie from Pittsburgh and Off the Bone BBQ from Mobile, Ala.

Returning this year were After Hours BBQ from Orrville, Ohio: Bg's Main Event from Rittman, Ohio; and Salt Creek BBQ from Glendale Heights.

"We discovered Off the Bone and Aussom Aussie at the Elkhorn Ribfest in Wisconsin. When I am not in Elgin, I am at other events scoping out what is out there," Lewis said.

She added that she also gets referrals.

"There's a family of ribbers that know one another," Lewis said.


Elgin's Ribfest, which evolved out of the former Prairie Rock Brewfest years ago, has become a Father's Day weekend tradition for families, according to organizers.

"We have tents in case of rain. It was blazing hot last year, but people still came," Lewis said.

Aussom Aussie's grill master Chuck Hern said the team hails from Sydney, Australia. "Our first rib show was in 1998 in Naperville. I began with the team a year later," Hern said.

The sauce is what makes a succulent tasting rib, according to Hern.

"We cook our ribs with a fruit-based barbecue sauce, and we smoke the ribs with a fruit wood," he said, adding that the seasoning is made to go with the wood and sauces.

"We smoke with cherry and apple, unlike everybody else, who smokes with oak and hickory," the grill master said.


The pork ribs are in the smoker for about five hours, Hern added, saying this results in “a sweeter taste.”

Aussom Aussie rib master Chuck Hern brushes ribs on the grill during this weekend's Ribfest in Elgin.

They were also the only ones who had shrimp off the barbecue. It's grilled shrimp on a skewer that is seasoned and finished with a raspberry chipotle barbecue sauce.

"They asked us to come. We were just in Fargo, North Dakota. We plan to serve Elgin the best ribs. We can go up to 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of ribs," Hern said.

"Awesome," Lenny Rago said of the Aussom Aussie ribs.

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The other good part is that the event raises money for good causes, the festival volunteer said.

A portion of proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin, the Marklund Wasmond Center at Little Angels and the Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin.


Berman decided on trying Salt Creek BBQ's Texas nachos, which are waffle fries with cheese and pulled barbecue pork.

"It fills every desire," she said.

South Elgin resident Gail Banek had the After Hours BBQ combo sandwich smothered in coleslaw.

"I can never choose from pulled pork or brisket, and they have a sandwich that has both," Banek said. "It's the best of both worlds.”

Linda Girardi is a freelance reporter for the Courier-News.