This weekend will be the 25th Ribfest, bringing more than 60,000 people to Vinoy Park for three days of radio-friendly music and napkin-friendly food. • The first Ribfest, then part of Festival of States, kicked off in 1990 in a fenced-off Straub Park. Tickets were $3 per day or $6 for a three-day pass and the big headliners were the Turtles and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. (This is the 25th Ribfest, but yes, it hasn't been 25 years. It started in March of 1990 and had two events in a couple of years when it moved the festival to November.) • But the event has always featured award-winning ribs by some of the best barbecue teams from across the country. • Nowadays, Ribfest is at the more spacious Vinoy Park, costs $16-$20 (plus food) and still relies on easy-listening rock and country acts that appeal to a crowd with disposable income. It has given more than $3.3 million to local children's charities since 1990, said Kathy Plummer, president of the Exchange Clubs of Florida. Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writer
Over the past few years, Ribfest has been tweaking its traditionally classic rock-centric recipe by spicing it up with some country, blues and even indie rock (remember Jet and Morningwood in 2012?). The experiment, which has been wildly successful, continues in the festival's 25th incarnation as Sunday welcomes a trio of country hunks: Josh Thompson (2 p.m.), Randy Houser (3:45) and Justin Moore (6). On Friday, it's back to the roots with classic rock balladeers REO Speedwagon (8:15 p.m.). Pork-rib-sandwiched in between it all are Saturday's festivities, with '90s alt-rock wonderboys Gin Blossoms (2 p.m.) opening a bill that also includes Sister Hazel (4) and headliners John Kay and Steppenwolf (8:30) who will provide some Sookie Sookie to go along with all that barbecue sauce.
Ray Roa, Times correspondent
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.
Texas Outlaw, Elizabethtown, Ky.
Just North of Memphis BBQ
Uncle Bubs, Chicago
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.
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.
The rules: Food, beverages, coolers, pets, lasers, professional cameras, audio or video recorders are not permitted in the park. You can bring your own chairs or blankets or get a chair rental for $5 per day.