The Canal Winchester Times

'Top shelf' blues and food drew record crowds

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The fifth annual Canal Winchester Blues and Ribfest provided record crowds with tasty treats and tunes once again this past weekend.

Event organizer Bruce Jarvis, director of Destination: Canal Winchester, said thunderstorms Saturday didn't seem to affect the number of people who poured into town for the two-day music and food festival.

Attendance was estimated at 33,000 to 34,000 for the weekend.

"We had a really good weekend with record crowds Friday," he said. "And Saturday, we had about the same size crowds as last year, maybe slightly more. We got lucky and only had a little sprinkle Saturday, not even enough to make the ground wet, but the storms around Columbus may have had a small effect on turnout."

Two performers, Columbus' own Willy Phoenix on Friday and Lexington, Ky.-based blues guitarist Tee Dee Young on Saturday, put on such powerful performances they both received standing ovations, Jarvis said.

"I don't even know how to put it into words, but Tee Dee put on one of the best, most awesome performances I've ever seen," he said. "Overall, the general sentiment from everyone in attendance was that this 2014 lineup was the best it's ever been. All top-shelf blues."

Music was only half the combination for the crowds, with seven barbecue rib vendors competing for honors, plus dozens of other food vendors as well.

"I'd say half come for the food and the other for the music," Jarvis said.

The overall award went to Tennessee Q Barbeque out of Virginia with Mansfield, Ohio-based Big Pappy's finishing second.

Big Pappy's beat out the competition to win the People's Choice award for the second year in a row.

Visitors were so hungry for good barbecue that Texas-based Cowboy's Barbeque and Rib Co. ran out of ribs Friday night, Jarvis said.

"The guys from Texas ran out of ribs on Friday, and I think, since he hadn't been here before, he might have thought our attendance numbers were a little exaggerated, but he did manage to restock in time for Saturday," he said.

This year featured an expanded kids' zone, which included a pony ride that Jarvis said was busy nonstop, with more than 800 pony rides given over the two days. He said that as long as sponsorships continue, he hopes to bring this back every year.

"We take notes throughout the event and this fifth year we hit our stride, but we'll never stop trying to improve," Jarvis said.

"I really want to say that this just happens thanks to the volunteers and sponsors, and city staff. They were a great help, and I want to tip my hat to them for all of their efforts and support."

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