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BBQ Tour Stop #12 – Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest

July 8, 2009
We pulled out of Milwaukee on Monday morning and headed to a Sam’s Club retail sampling in Naperville, IL. The “windy” city extended to Naperville and played havoc with our grill temperature while cooking the food samples. We had a great crowd and volunteers at the retail sampling though. Dawn Molski from Weber Grill Creations helped us out.

One routine that we try to do at each event is to eat some of the local food. Our favorite pizza place, Aurelio's, had a location right up the road from us. We also ate at Weber Grill Restaurant, which was in the area too. I was really disappointed that the steak did not have some Weber Grill Creation Chicago Steak Seasoning on it. I asked the manager and he said that they just lightly season their steaks with salt, pepper and paprika.

We set up right across from the Dodge dealers’ exhibit. The Dodge Boys had kids’ games and a neat racing simulator. They were next to the Titanic display, which Chris and Jan Black went through before the event opened one morning. Troy and Jan Black, with the Southern Living trailer, were doing demonstrations right down the road from us too. If you’ve seen my demonstration, you know I sometimes wear a “flairhair” visor with spiky hair that looks a bit like the Food Network “Guy.” Somebody walked by Troy’s demo and yelled for him to “take off the visor.” Turns out he wasn’t wearing a “flairhair” visor. He just needed a haircut!

The Naperville Ribfest is organized by the local Exchange Club to help fund the elimination of child abuse and domestic violence. It is a vending event with teams like Texas Outlaws, Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ, Famous Daves and Pigfoot. They have a contest for “Best Ribs” and “Sauce” that Chris got to judge. These guys cook for the masses so “KCBS” taste and tenderness is tougher to achieve. She was the only female judge and, as far as she knew, the only CBJ. Some of the other judges looked to her for guidance.

The weatherman called for nice weather over the weekend and got it partly right. Unfortunately, the only day of rain fell on the 4th of July. It kept most of the crowds away on Saturday, which turned out to be a nice break. The anticipated attendance on Thursday, the opening day, was 39,000. If I were to guess, that number was matched on Friday and blown away on Sunday.

We had some familiar faces in the crowd. Some fans from the Milwaukee Summerfest came by and saw us. John Leonardo and Dawn Molski, with Weber Grill Creations, joined us too. John and our CBJ buddy Marc even helped judge the Grill Master competition. There were numerous people who remembered us from last year and we even got to meet a couple of KCBS teams, Two Skinny Cooks and Joey Mac’s Smoke Stax (last year’s American Royal Invitational winners).

I think the most exciting part of our weekend was the two college kids, who had a MBA class presentation the following week on Kingsford. They stopped by Sunday and shared their story. I quizzed them to make sure we weren’t getting “played” and they knew their Kingsford information. We shared some BBQ goodies for the presentation. The young man was so happy and giddy that he almost “skipped” away. It reminded us of our daughter Tracie’s fiancé, Nathan, who does a “happy” dance on our front lawn when we race home and they beat us.

For now,

Mike (& Chris) Peters
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