Terry Thomson finished third in the rib-eating contest at Owen Sound Ribfest a couple of years ago, and he wanted another shot.
This year the Owen Sound construction worker came back and took the title in the adult rib-eating contest at the Owen Sound Ribfest and Music Festival on Saturday.
“It feels fantastic. I invited a lot of friends down to watch this,” Thomson, 49, said after being presented with his championship trophy at the Ribfest grounds at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. “I didn’t know if I would win. I thought I might finish second or third.
“I am very happy to win as my six-year-old son is with me and my wife is with me, along with a lot of friends and we are having a good time here.”
Thomson was one of about a dozen participants who lined up against each other in the contest, with the winner the first one to polish off a full rack of ribs.
He had taken part in eating contests in the past. He once won the steak-eating contest at Paisley Beef Fest and his third-place finish at the Ribfest in Owen Sound a couple of years ago came despite not trying really hard.
This year he said he ate a little faster and was able to come out with the win.
His strategy was to eat smaller and swallow quicker, but it didn’t actually work out that way.
“I was taking too much in, I was taking in a full half of the rib and it was too much to swallow,” said Thomson. “I had a couple of points there where I didn’t think I was going to be able to swallow it because my throat was so full.”
But Thomson said he was able to get through the hiccups and finish on top.
“I tried to clean off every rib as I was going along because I don’t like to go back and pick through them and plus it is harder on the judges,” he said. “It is about doing it as fast as you can. I am not looking left or right to see what other people are doing or where they are.”
This year’s Ribfest featured five rib teams competing for a variety of awards, including best ribs and best sauce. The event, which ran Friday evening to Sunday, also included a wide assortment of other foods, as well as a kid’s zone, musical acts, and a vendors market.
The participants included Uncle Sam’s BBQ Stand from Albuquerque, NM, Camp 31 from Brewton, Ala., Billy Bones BBQ from Fort Erie, Ont., Pistol Pete’s Oklahoma City Smokehouse and Sticky Fingers BBQ from Castleberry, Ala.
Festival Organizer Ricky Brooks of Ontario Festival Group said the rib teams they brought to the event are the A teams of all the rib teams in North America.
“We have got I would say about 25 to 30 rib teams that travel throughout North America and these guys are in the A group,” said Brooks. “We are happy to be partnered with these guys – great staff, great teams and amazing, amazing ribs.”
Thomson said he comes down to the event each year and he has a lot of fun. His favourite rib is Billy Bones, though he admitted he hadn’t tried all of them yet.
“Billy Bones was the one I originally tried and that was the one that I like,” said Thomson, who loves ribs, as does his son Tyler.
“We come every year, we buy ribs regardless. We eat our share of vegetables, but today it is about the meat.”
While Thomson was crowned the adult champion, 10-year-old Payton Dodd-Craig of Guelph walked away with the junior crown for participants 13 and under, downing half a rack of ribs in just minutes.
“My mom told me I should try it because I eat ribs really fast. I have been doing it a lot at Montana’s,” Dodd-Craig said, who admitted she was really nervous going into the competition.
She said her strategy was to rip the meat off slowly, and then eat it, which allowed her to ensure the bones were clean before heading on to the next rib.
“I wasn’t even looking at everyone. I was just trying to eat them,” said Dodd-Craig.
She said she was really enjoying the event and found the maker of her new favourite rib – Camp 31.
“It is just the juiciest and the meatiest,” she said.
Phoenix Leeson, 14, didn’t have as much success in the rib-eating contest as he has in the past. He had won the junior event the last two years, but this year he aged out and decided to compete against the adults. He knew he was in over his head when he saw the full rack of ribs sitting in front of him.
“This year it was a full rack of ribs so I could barely even eat it all,” said Leeson, who added that he still had a great time at the event this year and planned to be back again.
Ribfest got off to a bit of a rocky start on Friday when the skies opened up and torrential rains hit the event grounds, forcing organizers to close down at 9 p.m. Saturday started off windy which led to some challenges with tents and banners, but by the afternoon the wind died down and the sun came out, which led to long lineups at the front gate and at the rib vendors. While it rained Sunday morning, the afternoon was again dry.
“On Saturday afternoon there wasn’t a spot to move around here, so it was hopping, it was really good,” said Brooks. “This is the first year for us where we have experienced that weather as the last couple of years we had amazing weather, but overall we are happy.
“We received a lot of praise from Owen Sounders thanking us for bringing Ribfest back and it showed last night. People loved it.”