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9 tips to enhance your Ribfest experience

This weekend will be the 25th Ribfest, bringing more than 60,000 people to Vinoy Park for three days of music and meat.

That's 20,000 people a day, so you know it's going to be crowded. We've got some tips to help you maneuver your way through the throngs.

First, the food:

• The later it is, the longer the lines are going to be. Get there early in the day to get your rib fix.

• The longest lines usually form from 5 to 7 p.m. and whenever the top-billed music act starts.

• Don't be fooled into thinking the best 'cue has the longest lines.

• Go with a group, split up, buy from different vendors and then share the bounty.

Now, the crowds:

• If possible, avoid sitting on the south side of the sidewalk that's nearest the stage. In the afternoon, it might look like a clear sight-line to the stage. But as night falls and the main acts go on, there will be a constant stream of people in front of you and you can't see anything.

• Use the Fifth Avenue NE entrance and not the one that's nearest to North Shore Pool. The food lines there at night interfere with the sidewalk and create a massive people jam.

• Remember to establish a landmark if you have to leave in the dark to get something. With things so crowded, finding your way back to your crew can be a real challenge.

Miscellaneous:

• Bring something warm just in case you get chilled. When the sun goes down and the wind comes off the water, it can seem like it's freezing. A slight cold front that moved through Friday will also make it seem cooler than it has been.

• Don't want to lug chairs? Rent one for $5 a day.

If you go

Gates open at 11 a.m. Friday-Sunday at Vinoy Park, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. Tickets are $16 in advance at Circle K or ribfest.org, $20 at the gate, 12 and younger free with adult admission. (Proceeds from the event go to children's charities.)

 Ian Evans, left, of Tampa and Robert Winzeler, right, of Miami, taste some of the ribs at Ribfest in Vinoy Park at last year's fest. They liked the ribs from Big Boned BBQ Company and the sauces from Aussom Aussie Sauces.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2012)

Ian Evans, left, of Tampa and Robert Winzeler, right, of Miami, taste some of the ribs at Ribfest in Vinoy Park at last year's fest. They liked the ribs from Big Boned BBQ Company and the sauces from Aussom Aussie Sauces.

The music

FRIDAY

6 p.m.: Special surprise band

8 p.m.: REO Speedwagon

SATURDAY

2 p.m.: Gin Blossoms

4: Sister Hazel

6:15: Edgar Winter Band

8:30: John Kay & Steppenwolf

SUNDAY

2 p.m.: Josh Thompson

3:45: Randy Houser

6: Justin Moore

The ribbers

Award-winning ribbers from near and far will barbecue tons of pork this weekend.

Aussom Aussie, Sydney, Australia

Big Boned BBQ, Mixon, Tenn.

Blazin' Bronko, Cleveland, Ohio

Top Chop BBQ, Tampa

Desperado's, Hinckley, Ohio

Fat Fred's Famous Bar-B-Q, St. Petersburg

J&J Barbecue, Bradenton

Johnson's BBQ, Chesapeake, Va.

Porky 'N' Beans, Parma, Ohio

Rib King, Spartanburg, S.C. (a staff pick)

Texas Outlaw, Elizabethtown, Ky.

Just North of Memphis BBQ

Uncle Bubs, Chicago

Extras: A family fun zone has giant inflatables, obstacle course, glow golf and a 20-foot dual slide. There's also the Rockin' Pig Saloon in the middle of the park. New this year is a Ribfest Marketplace, a trade show of various vendors.

9 tips to enhance your Ribfest experience 11/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 5:08pm]
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