The first annual Pork in the Park rib fest competition drew a huge crowd to the MARC Saturday, consuming the entire supply of ribs in under three hours. Being the first year of the event, the sponsoring Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce wasn’t sure what to expect.
“When we started, we hoped we wouldn’t have any ribs left over,” said Debbe Kinsey, executive director of the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce. “The fact that we ran out two and a half to three hours into it, our heads spun.”
The eight competitors served up a combined 4,000 ribs at a buck a bone. Each competitor was supplied with 80 pounds of ribs, based on best guesses of how much would be needed.
“Going through that many ribs in that short of time was a good problem to have,” Kinsey said.
Additional food vendors were on site to offer other options when the ribs ran out.
While the event was scheduled to coincide with the Tomahawk Fall Ride, the majority of those who attended were from the Merrill area.
“We did get our fair share of bikers, but the community really came out and supported it,” Kinsey said. “So many people stopped and said thank you and to please make this an annual event.”
Plans are already in the works for next year’s Pork in the Park, which may include more competitors and certainly more ribs. Kinsey said the rib fest will retain its local flavor, with competitors hailing from Merrill and the surrounding area.
The proceeds from the event support the activities of the Merrill Chamber, which promotes over 20 events annually in the Merrill area. Holding a public fundraising event is something new for the Chamber.
“We do a lot of (other) community events, but those don’t generate any funds for the Chamber,” Kinsey said. “This will hopefully turn out to be our biggest, and only, community fund raising event.”
Winners of the first annual Pork in the Park rib fest were: First place, Sowbellies; second place, Merrill Sheet Metal; third place, Geiss Meat Service; and people’s choice, The Grill Team.