And it was this demand for the best in BBQ that convinced county officials to bring back Ribfest, a popular three-day event serving up southern-style cuisine, country music and beer.
After a two year hiatus, Ribfest is making its big comeback thanks to a partnership between the Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade, Miami-Dade Parks and Zoo Miami. Originally conceived in 2004 as part of the parks' department's 75th anniversary, the annual foodfest used to draw thousands of hungry attendees from across South Florida.
This year's three-day affair will pit national "ribbers" by the names of Porky N Beans, Big Boned BBQ Co., Willingham's World Champion BBQ, Blazin' Broncos, Pig In or Pig Out Cooking Team, and Skin & Bones against each other. Such titles would make any piggie proud.
The teams will compete "best of" honors in five categories including best ribs, best beef brisket, best pork, best chicken and best sauce. Winners will be named by a panel of judges made up of celebs, sponsors and dignitaries -- all of whom are likely to look decidedly undignified once they start licking sauce off their fingers.
Competitors will be selling their meaty creations on site, plus old school sides like corn bread, coleslaw, beans, fried pickles, macaroni and cheese and nachos.
And that ain't all. Like any good southern festival, vendors will be serving up classic fair foods including roasted corn, shaved ice, kettle corn, cookies, brownies, candy and caramel apples, chocolate covered fruits, funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos, soft pretzels and sundaes.
Aside from food, there'll be live entertainment all three days, including Southern Rock group Molly Hatchet, country music star James Otto and other local and national acts. A classic car show will also be set up on site, in addition to a Homestead Miami-Speedway NASCAR attraction.
For kiddos, the "Zoo Squad" (Gigi the giraffe, Kaz the rhino and Pio the red-billed oxpecker) will also be strutting their stuff for photo ops. The little ones can also stay entertained in the children's zone, on hay rides, a mechanical bull and other attractions.
"This is a great Fall Festival for people of all ages, says Edith Torres, Parks Business Development Specialist. "They'll enjoy live concerts, country music on Saturday with headliner James Otto and classic rock on Sunday with headliner Molly Hatchet; taste some of the finest barbecue in the nation all in one location and enjoy the great outdoors for an affordable price."
And for those who wanna pay extra to do the VIP thing, they'll get access to a special lounge close to the stage, admission to Zoo Miami, VIP access restrooms, special seating and a photo op. VIPs will also score food samples, wine and all-you-can-drink beer from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 3 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Dig up those stretch pants, folks. You're gonna need 'em.
General admission tickets for Ribfest are $12 or $15 depending on day. VIP tickets (21+ only) run $45 per day for Saturday or Sunday only. Ribfest/Zoo combo admission tickets are also available. Kids 10 and under get in free. The event runs Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit http://www.miamiribfest.com/pages/tickets.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.