You could call them Mr. and Mrs. Piggy.
When David and Cheryl Vandegrift go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame ribs burnoff, they dress the part.
Both wear hats featuring prominent pink pig snouts and T-shirts with a giant picture of a pig. Cheryl even dons her pig earrings — with the head on the right and the tail end on the left.
The Canton couple get a warm reception at the annual event in their hometown, with a rib vendor even offering Wednesday to buy Cheryl’s hat. She told him it wasn’t for sale.
“It’s just something we like to do every year,” Cheryl said as she enjoyed a blooming onion with her (piggy) husband.
The free ribs burnoff, part of several events planned this week for the hall of fame enshrinement festival, will continue from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. today and Friday, with 130,000 people expected to visit during the three-day period, said Jess Bennet, the spokeswoman for the festival.
Ten rib vendors from as far away as Port Dover, Ontario, will compete in the festival’s rib contest. The vendors were judged Wednesday and winners will be announced today. Three are from Stark County: Jack on the Bone of Massillon, Old Carolina Barbecue Co. in North Canton, and Two Fat Guys of Canton.
Two Fat Guys won Best Sauce in last year’s festival and hope to defend the title this year. Andy Bolgiano, one of the “fat guys,” said the secret to the “sissy sweet” sauce is a combination of honey and molasses. It will take 150 gallons of the sweet stuff to coat the ribs the company sells at the festival.
Bolgiano said the company takes part in festivals across Ohio and Pennsylvania, but enjoys the Canton festival because it’s so close to home. He makes sure to take time to sample the competition.
“I try them all,” he said as he brushed sauce over racks of ribs on a fiery grill. “I like to see what everybody else is doing.”
The event offers inflatable rides for the kids and a giant pile of sand for them to play in, with a nearby hose to wash off when they’re done.
Kristi Lewis of Plain Township smiled as she watched her son, Bryce, 7, bury his feet in the sand and her daughter, Paityn, 2, shovel sand into a bucket. She said she appreciated the kid-friendly activities.
“She’s having a blast,” she said of her daughter.
Behind the pile of sand, two master sand sculptors worked on the castle masterpiece that they do each year for the festival. Laurie Tournoux of Navarre and Chad Ebersole of Louisville have day jobs, but their passion is shaping sand into works of art.
“It’s very fun and very physical,” said Tournoux, who is the Louisville tax commissioner. “I get to eat anything I want down here.”
The sculptors will work on the castle until about 6 p.m. Friday, with the final product using all of the sand and featuring the Hall of Fame logo. This is the seventh year Tournoux has done a castle at the festival and her work attracts repeat visitors who stop to snap a picture of her latest creation.
Another picture-worthy stop at the festival is a giant potato that’s for a good cause.
The 12,000-pound, 6-ton potato is rolling around the country on a 72-foot trailer and will be at the festival each day and in the parade Saturday. The Idaho Potato Commission is using the super spud to raise money for Meals on Wheels. Donations can be made at the event or by visiting bigidahopotato.com.
“They just need the food, so we help any way we can,” said Paul Humbracht, who works for the commission and drives the potato trailer.
The first question people ask when they see the colossal potato is, “Is it real?”
“It’s real cool,” Humbracht answers of the potato that was designed to look authentic, down to the cracks and crannies.
Humbracht says a potato this big would take 10,000 years to grow and two years and nine months to bake and would produce 1.4 million french fries.
Other highlights of the ribs burnoff include:
• Entertainment: Free music will be provided during the day, with a big-name concert each evening. Country artist Josh Thompson will perform tonight, while Michael Stanley and the Resonators take the stage Friday night. The evening concerts are free, though tickets will be sold for grandstand seats.
• Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association 12th Man Team: This group of super sports fans will pose for pictures and give autographs from 5 to 7 p.m. today.
• Big Foot Monster Truck: Will be at the festival all day on Friday.
For more information about the festival’s entertainment, visit http://chambernews.org/2013/07/05/enshrinement-festival-ribs-burnoff-to-entertain-with-great-musical-variety-in-50th-year/.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.