Just about every weekend of this steamy summer seems to offer some kind of outdoor festival for sociable Detroiters, but there's only one that properly offers the heavenly meeting of sticky-sweet pork meat right off the bone and booty-shaking soul music. The Ribs and Soul Festival enters its 11th consecutive year down by the river at downtown's Hart Plaza, underscoring the city's heartfelt dedication to both down-and-dirty Southern rhythms and artery-clogging pork fat.
Make no mistake, barbecue ribs are big business, with a legion of cooks both amateur and professional devoting themselves to the minutia of slow cooking, using a dizzying array of elaborate ovens, woods for smoking, zesty sauces and exotic spices for the "dry rub" variety. The heat will be on in a contest involving the porcine (and sometimes bovine) fare at the core of the three-day spectacle, with the event culminating in a cook-off to determine the winner of the coveted title "Best Ribs and Sauce" 2006.
Along the way there will be plenty of music to help you move that old rump and burn off some calories. Is there something strange in your neighborhood? Well then you had better call upon the talents of Detroit's own Ray Parker Jr., who will be on hand "Ghostbusting" his way through a set of tunes spanning a three-decade career. The main stage will also play host to the likes of Adina Howard, Howard Hewitt, the Calloways of Midnight Star and Sir Nose of the legendary Parliament. Once a master of the "Placebo Syndrome," Sir Nose has since learned the powerful secret of the funk, which he will "gladly share with the masses in an effort to achieve 'Funkentelechy' for all mankind." Kind of beats a trip to Blockbuster for weekend entertainment, doesn't it?
The event is co-sponsored by the the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That's right: The federal government is helping back this sucker, with HUD's Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids campaign. So, really, it's not just an excuse to fill your bellies with delicious pig and baste in the sun as tunes fill the air. It's also the right thing to do.
Friday, Aug. 4-Sunday, Aug 5., at Hart Plaza, at the foot of Woodward Avenue at Jefferson, Detroit.Corey Hall is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]