Intrust Bank Arena rekindles Wichita Ribfest; outdoor barbecue festival will be in May

02/09/2012 5:00 AM

02/10/2012 6:54 AM

Intrust Bank Arena is reviving its Wichita Ribfest, an outdoor barbecue festival originally scheduled for last August.

The event, which will feature six national rib vendors, live music, a beer garden and kids’ activities, now is scheduled for May 17-19 in Lot D, a city-managed parking lot east of the arena at 777 E. Waterman.

A.J. Boleski, the arena’s general manager, announced the rescheduling at an event Thursday that included a free barbecue lunch for the first 400 people who showed up. Members of the crowd, which included nearby office workers and Sedgwick County commissioners, dined on ribs, potato salad and homemade potato chips at tables set up in the arena’s concourse.

The Ribfest originally was planned for Aug. 25-27 of last year, but the arena canceled the event in June, citing “unforeseen conflicts.” The annual BlackTop Nationals event was scheduled in the same area the same weekend.

Last summer’s record-setting heat, which produced an uninterrupted string of days where the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, also played a part in the cancellation, Boleski said.

The rescheduling affords the Ribfest a more temperate spot on the calendar, which is freer of conflicts now that the Wichita River Festival has moved from May to June.

“We wanted to make sure it was going to be a successful event because we want it to become an annual thing,” Boleski said.

The Ribfest is modeled after other festivals that are popular around the country. A similar event was a hit at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., which Boleski led before taking over Intrust Bank Arena in July 2010.

The event is not a traditional barbecue cook-off but instead features national rib vendors, who will compete against each other for titles such as “Best in Show” and “People’s Choice.”

The arena is asking Wichita to help it choose an official logo for the event. It released three possibilities — one featuring an image of the arena, one with a guitar-playing pig and one with an X-rayed pig with flames shooting from its back. People are asked to vote online for their favorite at Voting is open until 10 a.m. Feb. 24.

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