5 reasons to attend the Buckeye BBQ Fest this weekend

The award-winning After Hours BBQ, famous for their fall off the bone baby back ribs, are making a return appearance to the Buckeye BBQ Fest. CONTRIBUTED
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The award-winning After Hours BBQ, famous for their fall off the bone baby back ribs, are making a return appearance to the Buckeye BBQ Fest. CONTRIBUTED

Until a few years ago, the Buckeye BBQ Fest was a competition between Kansas City BBQ culinary artists. That was until the event chairman, Art Mathews, discovered, “The public didn’t care; they just wanted to eat.”

So now, barbecue vendors from around the Midwest converge on Union Square each May to give the public what they want.

While there are several reasons to attend the Buckeye BBQ Fest, we’ll start with …

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Kingsgate Logistics Buckeye BBQ Fest will be held on Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19, at The Square @ Union Centre in West Chester. CONTRIBUTED
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Kingsgate Logistics Buckeye BBQ Fest will be held on Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19, at The Square @ Union Centre in West Chester. CONTRIBUTED

THE FOOD

According to Mathews, barbecue vendors typically stick with a festival for a few years and then move on. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be several returning favorites in 2018, such as After Hours BBQ (pork, chicken brisket, and award-winning baby back ribs from Akron), John Johns BBQ (slow-smoked beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey and chicken from Cincinnati), and Pit to Plate (beef brisket, pulled pork and chicken, ribs, and turkey from Mt. Healthy).

Brand new vendors this year include JDZ Fried Ribs, Bob Cha BBQ (beef and pork BBQ and chicken dumplings from Liberty Twp.), and Kuya Ed’s Lechon Atbpa (Filipino-style pork and chicken BBQ from Findlay Market).

To accommodate those who aren’t huge BBQ fans, the fest will also feature several vendors selling hamburgers, hot dogs, metts, Tex Mex, mac and cheese, and sweets like kettle corn, doughnuts, and Kona Ice. Indeed, Mathews conceded that one of the most popular food items — the cherry cobbler from Miss Parolee’s Pies — is not only a non-BBQ item, but a dealbreaker for many returning patrons.

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The Rotary Club of West Chester/Liberty will host its annual Buckeye BBQ Fest on Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21 at The Square @ Union Centre in West Chester Twp.
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The Rotary Club of West Chester/Liberty will host its annual Buckeye BBQ Fest on Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21 at The Square @ Union Centre in West Chester Twp.

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

THE BEER

The fest will be loaded with 120 kegs of beer in 14 different styles. Joining popular and local mainstays like Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, and Yuengling is Hawaii’s Kona Longboard Island Lager, Elysian Brewing’s (Seattle) Space Dust IPA, Shock Top, and craft beer selections from both local (DogBerry, FigLeaf, Municipal Brew Works, MadTree) and national (Breckinridge, Goose Island) breweries.

The fest’s beer garden is an ideal spot to sit and take a small break, with its patio furniture and beer keg tables. Patrons can also select from a wide variety of bottled beer, canned beer and wine.

>> Beer garden added at Buckeye BBQ Fest

THE CARS

The car show is a major part of the Fest. The 35 to 40 cars on display are hand-picked and hail from different classes, primarily the 1960s/70s hot rod/muscle car era.

The highlights are Corvettes, Mustangs, Porsches and Camaros. There will also be a “supercar” class, which includes a vintage British MG, a 1980s Aston Martin, and a 2014 Corvette Stingray convertible.

Awards will be presented at 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

The award-winning blues guitarist, Noah Wotherspoon, will headline the Friday night music lineup at the Buckeye BBQ Fest. CONTRIBUTED
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The award-winning blues guitarist, Noah Wotherspoon, will headline the Friday night music lineup at the Buckeye BBQ Fest. CONTRIBUTED

THE TUNES

Since the live entertainment at the fest is handled by the Cincy Blues Society, the lineup will consist of award-winning local and regional blues bands.

Noah Wotherspoon (Best Guitarist at the 2015 International Blues Challenge) will headline Friday night, and Johnny Fink and the Intrusion (winner of the 2016 Cincy Blues Challenge and the 2016 Dayton Blues Challenge) will headline Saturday.

The lineup also features popular regional veterans such as Ricky Nye and The SoulFixers and, last but not least, Middletown’s The Beaumonts, who will be giving their final performance at the Buckeye BBQ Fest after 30 years together.

KID STUFF

Festival enthusiasts with small children will be relieved to learn they won’t have to sit this one out. The fest features several entertainment options for the kids, including two bouncy houses, a giant Jenga set, a Pop-A-Shot electronic basketball game and, new this year, a giant rock climbing wall.

There will also be a Jungle Island Petting Zoo, featuring exotic animals for the kids to get up close and personal with. They will include a mini-zebu cow, an alpaca, a mini-Shetland pony, a pygmy goat, a large tortoise, axis deer and kangaroos.

WANT TO GO?

When: May 18-19, 5-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday

Where: Square at Union Centre, 9285 Centre Point Drive, West Chester

Cost: No admission cost

More Info: www.buckeyebbqfest.org