Ribfest

Martha Smith of Gator BBQ prepares ribs Friday evening at the new Great American Ribfest and Food Truck Festival in Merrimack.

MERRIMACK — Barbecue lovers flocked to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Friday night, thrilled to try anything and everything off the grill.

“We are here for the ribs and the beer,” said Jessica Fagan while sipping a cold brew and contemplating which rib vendor to hit up first.

Replacing the former Rock’n Ribfest, the newly revamped Great American Ribfest and Food Truck Festival kicked off on Friday and will continue throughout the weekend.

The three-day festival is expected to attract up to 18,000 foodies, and if Friday night was any indication of how the weekend will unfold, patrons say they are excited to hear about the final turnout.

“We are here for the entertainment, and if I can decide between all of the choices, perhaps some food,” said Betsy Mazzoleni of Salem.

Ribfest

Patrons line up Friday night to purchase their barbecue favorites at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack.

She was there with her husband, Ray, to watch the Dave Keller Band perform their beloved blues tunes.

“This is my first time performing here. We travel all over the country and this is just great to be here on stage,” said Keller, who was ready to dig into a massive cheese sandwich courtesy of the Cheese Louise food truck from Minneapolis.

Everything from vegan food bowls, poutine, corn on the cob, grilled chicken, pizza, wings and more is readily available at the Great American Ribfest.

“I’m definitely going to do the pulled pork,” said Ray Mazzoleni.

Patrons agreed that the food options at this year’s event are extensive, messy and finger-licking delicious.

“We are going to try as much as we can until we explode,” joked Justin Vose of Haverhill, Mass. “It is good food and a good time.”

His friend, Jacob Perry of Manchester, said you can’t go wrong with any of the food selections. Attending for their third year in a row, they planned on either selecting ribs or pulled pork for their main option.

The Merrimack Rotary Club has taken over the event, which was formerly organized by the Nashua West Rotary Club. The Nashua organization decided last year that it would not continue with the event, which created some concern that it might not happen this year.

“This is so great — no disappointment here,” said Jeremy Bisbo of Merrimack, who came specifically for the dinosaur bone from The Smokehaus, which he described as a beef brisket delight.

His wife, Katie Bisbo, said the couple hasn’t attended the event in several years, but decided to return and experience the new layout under new ownership.

“There are definitely more options, and we love all of the food trucks,” she said.

Whether it is traditional barbecue, seafood, Caribbean or vegan, there is something for everyone, agreed those in attendance.

There are three mobile beer units dispersed throughout the grounds of the brewery to serve patrons. The traditional Ribfest 5-Miler race will also take place this weekend, as well as family entertainment and bouncy house activities for the youngsters.

Some of the musicians that will be on hand include School of Rock House Band, River Road Blues Band, Stomp and Holler and more.

Some of the rib vendors include Smokehaus BBQ, Jack’s Down Home BBQ and T-Roy’s BBQ.

The event continues from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday at the brewery plant, 221 Daniel Webster Highway. Fathers are admitted free after 4 p.m. on Sunday.