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Published: Mon, June 29, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.



NILES — Vendors at the 25th annual Mahoning Valley Rib Burn Off, which ended its run Sunday night, complained about the new location, entrance fees, sporadic rain and the economy in general, but the director of special events pronounced himself “ecstatic” over the turnout, the show and the entertainment.

“I think the economy may have actually helped us,” said Tom Sharp of the Cafaro Co., owner of the Eastwood Mall complex. “I think that rather than drive hundreds of miles and pay higher gas prices, people decided to stay close to home and eat or attend one of the shows.”

Sharp did not have attendance figures immediately available but said turnout was “right on schedule” and in line with last year’s attendance of approximately 12,000. Sharp said the highest attendance for the burn-off came in 2003 when the headline attraction, the Charlie Daniels Band, helped draw 20,000.

However, several of the vendors did not share Sharp’s enthusiasm.

“I think it’s the worst it’s ever been in terms of sales,” said Ron Conaway of Magnolia, Texas, operator of Texas Pit Barbeque, last year’s rib burn-off champion. “This has always been one of my better shows but not this time.”

Conaway and several other vendors complained about the show’s new location — the parking lot by Eastwood Field behind Eastwood Mall. In previous years, the burn-off has been in front of the mall along Route 422.

“A lot of people didn’t even know we were back here, and I’d rather have it out front,” said Andy Reigard of Austintown, operator of Armadillo’s, another regular burn-off participant. “I also didn’t see much in the way of advertising, and we could have used more of that.”

Part of that problem may be because of a late change of promoters. The previous promoter had decided not to continue his association, and the replacement, West Coast Productions, had to put the burn-off together in 90 days, according to its representative, Ken Hewitt.

“I still think it’s a nice show, but the GM Lordstown situation has hurt us a bit,” Hewitt said, referring to the temporarily closed plant’s impact on the local economy.

Several of the vendors noted that customers were buying less than usual, and they attributed it to the $7 entrance fee charged after 4 p.m.

“That was a big factor for us, and it’s probably why people weren’t buying like they used to,” said Justin Riegle of Deerfield, operator of Mojo’s Rib Shack. “I don’t think we’ll be back next year.”

Armadillo’s Reigard also agreed that the admission fee along with the economy and the rain hurt his bottom line, but he hopes to return in 2010 “if they promote it more.”

Sharp, Cafaro’s director of events, responded that the burn-off “can’t make money at the gate unless people are eating or buying.” He called the four-day festival a success despite vendor criticism.

“We’re not crammed in like we used to be when we were out front [of the mall],” Sharp said. “I’m really happy about how this has gone.”

Attendance, sparse because of rain Sunday afternoon, appeared to increase later in the day. Country singer John Michael Montgomery was expected to draw a large crowd Sunday night.


1Stan(9923 comments)posted 7 years ago

"In previous years, the burn-off has been in front of the mall along Route 422."

Why hide it this year ?

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2jgm820(133 comments)posted 7 years ago

You know, I thought the same thing. I was by the mall on Friday afternoon at the AT&T store across 422 and was thinking "Isn't the Rib cook off this weekend? It has always been up front. I wondered where they had put it.

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3mark(60 comments)posted 7 years ago

Back when they were calling it Cafaro Field that's where it was... I thought they moved it to the mall parking lot just a few years ago?
Anyway, regardless, they used to get better music. I was there to see The Spin Doctors a few years ago, and twice to see the Gin Blossoms. Since 2005, when they were last there, there haven't been any acts there worth seeing.

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4HundredReasons(31 comments)posted 7 years ago

How about a picture caption that actually mentions the people in the picture and what they are doing rather than another unnecessary reference to how bad things are.

Stop playing into the negativity, especially if the reference is a far reach.

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5ntfd27(1 comment)posted 7 years ago

I unfortunately worked this terrible event with a BBQ company. Despite what the people running this show say it absolutely was NOT a success and I'd love to see their figures to show that it was lol. This was the 2nd worst event we have ever been to in 5 years. The only worse show was another show we went to that was run by one of the people running this one, imagine that! This event was not advertised for what so ever, I saw a bigger sign for Tom's Portable Toilets that I saw for the actual burn off, that's pathetic. Hopefully the toilets did well because no one else did. This group did not have their priorities straight. I suppose if they took half of the $19,000 they spent on John Michael Montgomery to play for an hour and put it toward advertising so people knew we were tucked in a corner behind the mall that really wasn't any bigger at all, then maybe the event wouldn't have been a massive flop. The person running the event was too embarrassed to show his face until that last day when everone was leaving 6 hours early so he could yell at them and tell them that they are never coming back, what a gift, thank you! You and your awesome crew blew this event, not the vendors, at the end of the day everyone there is running a business and we have to cut our losses. No need to be open for the 50 people that were there watching the absolutely terrible bands that you had to pay $7 dollars at the gate for, what a JOKE!

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