For two days, the Canal Winchester Blues & Ribfest will entice crowds with the smells of world-class wood-smoked barbecue and live blues music by artists from all over the country.
As many as 40,000 people are expected to attend the event, hosted by Destination: Canal Winchester and the city of Canal Winchester, in the historic downtown July 27 and 28, according to Destination: Canal Winchester Executive Director Karen Stiles.
The rain-or-shine event runs from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, July 27, and from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 28.
"Each year, we have new artists come in and we have some of the favorites return," Stiles said. "Some of the favorite ribbers also are returning, like Carolina Rib King and Desperados and Big Pappy's, who always wins a people's choice award."
Stiles believes this year's lineup of rib masters might be "the strongest we've ever assembled."
More than 18 other specialty food vendors, including the Schmidt's Sausage Truck, will be open for business during the two days.
The festival will offer children's activities, shaded dining areas and a beer-and-wine garden, which Stiles said is larger this year.
Entertainment coordinator Sherri Fuller has lined up 18 acts for the Main and Stradley Place stages. The artists attract visitors from all over the country, she said.
Headlining the entertainment is Florida guitarist Sean Chambers, who has been touring the U.S. and Europe. He released his sixth album, "Trouble & Whiskey" in March 2017. It reached No. 11 on Billboard and No. 7 on the Living Blues Radio charts.
"I'm really excited about headlining the festival," said Chambers, who will perform at 9:30 p.m. July 27 on the Main Stage. "I've done a little research on the festival, and it looks like it will be one of the highlights of my tour. This particular tour I'm on runs about seven weeks, and I'd say the Canal Winchester festival is probably the highlight for me."
Chambers describes his music as "a little bit of blues rock and Americana."
He said he grew up listening to traditional blues but also was inspired by many of the Texas blues performers, like Johnny Winter.
Chambers' music draws fans of all ages.
"I'd say the core of our audience is late 30s all the way up to 60s," Chambers said. "It's always nice to see a guitar player who's like 14 come in and enjoy the music."
Other Main Stage performers include: The Mitchell Project (5 p.m. July 27); Omar Coleman (6:30 p.m. July 27); Ray Fuller and the Bluerockers (8 p.m. July 27); Toronzo Cannon (9:30 p.m. July 27); Bad Avenue (noon July 28); Guitar Company (1:30 p.m. July 28); Laurie Jane and the 45s (3:30 p.m. July 28); Joanna Connor (5:30 p.m. July 28); and Joe Moss (7:30 p.m. July 28).
The complete entertainment schedule can be found at bluesandribfest.com.
Festival organizers remind visitors to bring portable chairs because provided seating is limited. Also, no coolers or outside food and beverages are allowed in the festival area, and visitors are asked to leave pets at home.
On- and off-street parking is available in areas adjacent to the festival area. Handicap parking is available at the West Waterloo Street entrance east of Washington Street.
"Some of the country's best rib vendors will be here, so make sure to make your way downtown to enjoy great food and great music," Mayor Mike Ebert said in a news release promoting the event.