CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ribfest director Bill Picozzi says there are many new additions to expect at this year's food festival, like bigger carnival rides and a wider variety of vendors.
But Solomon Williams, "the Carolina rib king" who has competed in the event all of its 14 years, says some things never change.
"I keep everything the same because I won their hearts years ago -- sweet with a little bit of salty, and always nice and tender," said Williams, 49, of Spartanburg, S.C. "I've only went a few years without winning."
Williams and other self-proclaimed rib masters from all over the country braved the heat Wednesday afternoon in South Charleston to prepare for the 14th annual Ribfest, which kicks off Thursday and lasts through the weekend.
Williams and his Carolinian team will compete against seven other teams, including award-winning Texas Pit Barbecue.
"Technically, we're defending champs. We had to miss Ribfest last year, but in 2010 we took home first place," said owner Ron Conaway, who has been in the barbeque business for more than 20 years.
Conaway's crew has been traveling the country competing since April, snatching a few first-place prizes along the way.
But you can't buy his "secret recipe" in any store.
"You've got to have patience. You never cook ribs fast. Remember, slow and low -- take your time and keep a low temperature," he said. "That's how you make bone-lickin' good ribs."
This year's event also will welcome carnival rides and feature more kid-friendly entertainment -- like the world's largest pinball machine, standing at 28 feet tall.
"Armband days" will be held Thursday and Sunday, and will allow unlimited access to any amusement ride for "one low price," Picozzi said. That price was not determined as of press time.
"People look forward every year to world-class, award-winning barbeque rib makers from all over the country," he said. "We try to provide a great family event, and this year we are making sure there is something for everyone to enjoy -- even if they don't like ribs."
Other food options will be offered, including crab cakes, fish dinners, curry and rice bowls.
Local musical acts including the Davisson Brothers Band will perform throughout the weekend. The Davisson Brothers Band takes the stage Thursday at 8 p.m. for Country Night.
On Saturday at 9 p.m., 1970s chart-toppers Rare Earth will headline the event. An Elvis impersonator will perform Sunday at 4 p.m.
Eating contests also will be held Sunday, including a "local celebrity" contest where former West Virginia University football star Major Harris and Kanawha County prosecutor Mark Plants, another former WVU football player, will compete.
Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children 6 to 12 years old and free for children under 5 years old.
The RibFest will be held Thursday through Sunday on MacCorkle Avenue across from the Dow chemical plant.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.