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Barbecue aficionados head to Merrimack for Rock'n Ribfest

MERRIMACK — With the band pounding “Sweet Home, Alabama” and a cloud of smoke blowing across a huge open field, the Rotary Club of Nashua West kicked off its annual three-day Rock’n Ribfest at the Anheuser-Busch plant in Merrimack on Friday.

The early summer extravaganza draws thousands of people and raises money for a long list of local charities.

Rock’n Ribfest includes all types of entertainment, games and food, but the main event is the ribs served up by eight barbecue teams from as far away as Australia.

Gates opened Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. and by 4:05, cooks were serving up big portions of ribs to the growing crowd. Jack McDavid of Jack’s Down Home BBQ made the trip from Philadelphia to cook at the Ribfest. McDavid said there were two special ingredients for his ribs.

“If you ain’t got smoke, you ain’t got barbecue,” said McDavid who added his other special ingredient was love.

Goffstown resident Steve Dovich who was cooking with Firefly Bodacious Bar-B-Que from Marlborough, Mass., said that while the rib cooks were competing, it was a friendly competition.

“I love all these guys,” said Dovich, who sees his fellow grillers all the time on the rib fest circuit. “We’re like a big family.”

Still, Dovich figured his crew would come in ahead of the other cooks. “We’re Boston strong,” he said. Under an enormous tent sent up for people to relax and enjoy the food, Auburn residents Bill and Mary Calder were tying a few different dishes.“The pulled pork was really good,” said Mary Calder. And her husband added that his ribs were “Awesome.”