Patriots gather for rib fest, despite COVID-19 challenges

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LABELLE — Despite challenges brought forth by COVID-19, competition really heated up during the LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation’s 9th Annual Smoke Under the Oaks Rib Fest. As determined teams, made up of both veterans and newcomers, gathered around their smokers, deliciously scented smoke wafted through the trees. Teams each had their own special smoking ingredients, tenderizing techniques, and other close kept barbecue secrets for developing the flavor in their giant racks of ribs. There was plenty of laughter, music, and good eats in Barron Park throughout the event.

“My granddaddy taught me how to do this, when I was just a kid,” said one veteran competitor, while brushing the ribs with sauce. “This recipe hasn’t changed much in many generations, except that I do add some scotch bonnets and a little mango purée these days.”

Nestled amongst the beloved, old oak trees were booths filled with homemade candles, cupcakes, and many other locally made wares for sale. One of the most eye catching items were the one-of-kind, handmade beer steins from Muse Pottery.

“This is always such a great event,” said self proclaimed ultimate rib fan and obsessive stein collector, Mary Turner. “I come here every year from Palm Beach, and this year didn’t disappoint. These steins are a great way to commemorate it!”

There was so much hustle and bustle going on throughout the day, between the big Cornhole tournament, kids playing tag around the park’s statues, and shoppers perusing the many booths. While there was much to do, most were there to feed the carnivores within, quickly getting plates and settling into their seats as they dug into the juicy ribs.

The results of the competition were later announced: Papa Paul’s Bar B Que came in third, Sweet Sugar Swine claimed second place, and Team Corib-19 was dubbed the first place winners. While Grills Gone Wild claimed the coveted People’s Choice Award.

The end of the event featured an informative and moving flag ceremony by the bikers of Rolling Thunder FL5 where they completed the traditional thirteen folds. They explained what each fold meant through the 13-fold flag recitation.

“I loved watching the flag folding. It was great that they took the time to also teach us that the 13 folds are so much more than just pomp and circumstance,” said Janet Miller, who stood silently as the flag passed by. “I am glad to know that each of the 13 folds holds such special meaning. What a special way to end this rib fest.”

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