Get Your Appetite Ready for Ribs on the Ridge in Haines City

Looking for a different way to spend Valentine's Day this year? Nothing says I love you like tons of food, live music and a barbecue competition.

Ribs on the Ridge -- the largest competition sanctioned by the Florida Bar-B-Que Association -- takes place Friday and Saturday at Lake Eva Park, 555 Ledwith Ave.

This two-day cookoff starts Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. and resumes Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The winner will qualify to compete in the Jack Daniels World Championship in Lynchburg, Tenn.

Although it is free for guests to attend and participate in the activities, there is a cost that goes with food vendors and the available barbecue.

Barbecue teams from all over the country will compete in both the professional and backyard divisions, Event Coordinator Barbara Peck said.

It isn't necessarily the skill level that sets the professionals apart from the backyard cookers, Peck said, but the ambition to win cash prizes and move on to the competition in Lynchburg.

Chicken, ribs, pork and brisket are categories tested by the judges, who are certified through the Florida Bar-B-Que Association.

Cash prizes, ribbons and trophies are awarded to the top 10 professional teams in each category, and there will also be an overall competition champion.

First-place professional teams in any given category earn a trophy and $400, while the grand champions take home $2,000.

Without cash in the mix, the backyard teams compete for "bragging rights" with trophies for each category, as well as a trophy for the grand and reserve champions.

A sauce and dessert competition will keep teams busy Friday, while a Champagne and chocolate reception encapsulates the Valentine's Day experience.

Meatballs, shrimp cocktails, fresh fruit platters, and chips and salsa will also be available for appetizers Friday night.

On Saturday, the competitive spirit can be seen in people of as young as 6 with competition for ages 6 to 10 and 11 to 15. Parental supervision is required for the youngsters.

First-place winners in the kids division receive $50 Wal-Mart gift cards donated by MidFlorida Credit Union.

Judges will be at work taste-testing barbecue throughout Saturday, and awards will be presented starting at 5 p.m.

All kinds of barbecue will be available to taste and purchase.

"I'm especially looking forward to the pulled-pork eggrolls," City Manager Jonathan Evans said.

Not really a barbecue fan?

Food vendors will offer other options, such as hotdogs and hamburgers to cater to those different cravings.

A local band also will be performing on stage to give people a little bit of everything.

Vote for your favorite, or least favorite, city official to kiss a pig at the event.

A "bank" will be established for the five commissioners and city manager, and donations are treated as ballots.

The person with the most donations in his bank at the end will kiss a pig on stage for all to witness. Donations will support the Shop with a Cop event at Christmas.

"I will work tirelessly to ensure that one of the elected officials has to kiss the pig and not me," Evans said. "I think it'd be great to see Mayor Don Mason kiss a pig."



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