Rock'n Ribfest brings out the best from barbecue masters

Union Leader Correspondent
June 15. 2018 9:20PM
Martha Smith of Florida Gator BBQ works the grill Friday night during the opening day of Rock'n Ribfest at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)

MERRIMACK — The ribs are grilling and the barbecue is smoking all weekend long at Merrimack’s supreme food festival.

“This is absolutely delicious — messy, but so fun,” said newbie Brittany Jordan of Rhode Island while enjoying the macdaddy sandwich complete with macaroni and cheese and brisket at the Nashua West Rotary’s annual Rock’n Ribfest.

Although it was Jordan’s first time at the Rock’n Ribfest event, she was already impressed with the food after just a few bites.

The three-day ultimate cook-off began Friday at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and will continue through to Sunday, attracting barbecue lovers and beer enthusiasts in search of finger-licking good food.

After finishing his ribs on Friday, Bob Tomaskow of Derry said he intended to try some corn on the cob and a bloomin’ onion.

“We are going to have to roll him out of here,” joked Jessica Tomaskow.

The method to picking the best rib vendor on site — according to Jessica Tomaskow it is all about searching for the longest line and seeking out the vendor with the most awards.

Rib vendors from all over New England and beyond are serving up the very best of their meat offerings, according to organizers.

“The ribbers come from everywhere. We are highly sought out by the ribbers, and I understand they are second to none,” said Sherry Seskin of Nashua West Rotary, the organization hosting the 16th annual event.

The trick is always making sure you have the best chef on hand, said Joseph Williams of Johnson’s Hickory Smoked BBQ out of Virgina.

“We have been doing this for 35 years — it is all about paying attention to detail,” said Williams, stressing the importance of a three-step smoking process that includes hickory wood, rotation and steam.

Dan Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Hickory Smoked BBQ, said they anticipate grilling about 100 cases of ribs, along with hefty amounts of pork and beef.

Kurt Smith of Florida Gator BBQ says they will likely cook up about 60 cases of ribs and probably 7,000 pounds of other meats.

“We have been here a long time. We come back every year,” said Smith. “The weather is going to be great, so I sure hope I can find more meat if I need to.”

Five rib vendors are on hand for the festivities, along with 10 other food vendors, said Seskin, adding one of the more popular items this year is fried Oreos.

“We are anticipating a good crowd of probably 25,000 people,” she said.

New this year is a Cornhole tournament and two escape rooms — one for adults and another that is appropriate for children. Two performance stages will feature local musicians, and numerous beers will be on tap along with hard cider, hard tea and margaritas.

All of the money raised from the festival will be distributed to local nonprofit organizations. In the past, the rotary has raised up to $100,000 from the Rock’n Ribfest.

The Anheuser-Busch Brewery is located at 221 Daniel Webster Highway. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 at the gate; children ages 8 and under are admitted free. Kids rides are available for $10 for the full day, or individual tickets may be purchased.

For more details on the event, including a complete schedule, visit

FoodGeneral NewsMerrimack

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