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Ed Sabatka turns over ribs a pit cooker during the 2015 edition of the Duncan Ribfest. This year's festival is slated for June 23-24.

A small Platte County village’s population will be swelling by more than tenfold next weekend when barbecue devotees converge for Duncan Ribfest, filling Main Street during the annual two-day event.

The 15th annual event, set for June 23-24 this year, has historically been the magnet for 6,000 barbecue lovers of ribs, brisket, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, baked beans and more. Attendees will be choosing from among seven vendors lining the downtown area north of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

The crowds totaled 6,000 on Saturday and Sunday last year, but they vary from year to year, said Jerry Schlesinger, who spends most of the year organizing the occasion.

Duncan’s everyday population count is about 350, so Ribfest takes a lot of volunteers.

Dozens of volunteers turn out to take money at the gate, hand out wristbands, work security, serve drinks and clean up.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Duncan Volunteer Fire Department and the Duncan Wrestling Club.

This year’s event has attracted seven vendors, including defending champion Smokin R’s BBQ (of Guthrie Center, Iowa), which was honored during its first visit last year with Ribfest’s Best Ribs Award. A volunteer panel of five local judges made the call.

Other returning award-winning Ribfest vendors include Baby Huey’s of Fremont, Hickory Road BBQ of Auburn and 9 South Chargrill BBQ Lincoln. H&H Catering and Carolina Catering of St. Paul, Minnesota, will serve specialty items such as barbecue cookies.

A newcomer this year is Fat Ferg’s BBQ from Lincoln, which confirmed last-minute plans to come to the event, Schlesinger said.

The judging competition is for “bragging rights,” he noted.

The weekend barbeque party runs from 3 p.m. to midnight on June 23 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 24. The shuttle service from Columbus to Duncan will continue this year.

“We shuttle a lot of people,” said Schlesinger, with a smile.

Admission to the event is $5 for adults with children age 10 and younger getting in free of charge.

Country band Jagertown, a national recording act from Salt Lake City, Utah, will headline the weekend’s entertainment on Saturday night. The country band's high-energy live shows are said to keep people moving.

Other Saturday groups include Daybreak, which performs golden oldies from the 1960s, New Old and Broke Band, Canadians who mix music and comedy, and country performers 4 on the Floor.

On Sunday, the Persuaders will perform.

“We get new ones every year,” Schlesinger said.

Jim Osborn is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at

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Jim Osborn is a news reporter at The Columbus Telegram.

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