By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The festival season will kick off early this year with a familiar name but in a new location.
The Mahoning Valley Rib Burn-Off will be May 18-20 at Wick Recreation Area of Mill Creek Park, on the West Side.
The Burn-Off took place for years in the parking lot of Eastwood Mall in Niles, until last year, when the mall took over management of the July festival and renamed it the Eastwood Mall Rib Cook Off.
Cliff Mortimer of Armadillo’s BBQ of Austintown, owner of the Burn-Off name, approached the park board recently with a proposal to have his event at Wick Recreation Area. The park board agreed, said Linda Kostka, development and marketing director for Mill Creek MetroParks.
The Rib Burn-Off will be a first for Wick Recreation Area, which has never hosted such an event. It also will be a little different than what took place at the mall complex.
The event will feature six national rib-cooking teams, as well as other vendors, and a full schedule of 11 bands spread out over the three days.
But the event will have more of a family atmosphere, with a children’s area and family activities in the spray pool area.
The rib cookers will be set up in the upper parking lot, and the bands will perform on the Morley Pavilion stage. The schedule of bands is not complete at this time, but Dave Matthews Tribute Band will be the headliner Saturday night. Other bands committed at this time include White Cadillac and Red Sun Rising.
The event also will end a little sooner each night because of the residential neighborhood the park is in. Hours will be noon to 10 p.m. each day, said Kostka.
Parking will be available on the baseball fields if the weather is dry, with overflow parking at Chaney High School. A bus will shuttle people between Chaney and the festival. Parking also will be available behind Morley Pavilion.
Admission will be $5, and there will be beer available at the Burn-Off.
The Mahoning Valley Rib Burn-Off will be a fundraiser to pay for the construction of a new children’s playground area, which will be at the site of the spray pool, playground and pavilion, said Kostka.