A fun time for a great cause.
That sums up what Stanton Ribfest is, but it doesn’t do justice to what the incorporation provides to communities in Northeast Nebraska.
Nine years ago, a small group of men, including Artie Reed, were sitting at the Stanton VFW and decided to have a ribfest event to benefit the VFW to update wiring in their kitchen.
Reed, now the president of Stanton Ribfest, said $500 was raised and about 100 people were served during the inaugural event.
Since then, the event has been moved out to the Stanton County Fairgrounds and has raised more than $25,000 that has been donated to needs in the area. The group also has grown from “backyard grillers” to a group of 20.
“I was always told by my parents your community’s only going to be as good as what you put into it,” Reed said. “The VFW was having hard times. We didn’t want to see the VFW shut down ... so we started out there. And then from there on, we just started spreading the word.”
Stanton Ribfest is the second Saturday in June and includes a barbecue contest.
The ribs are supplied to the contestants, who will then be judged in a double blind test on three categories, said Chris Farrier, vice president. There is a cash payout for the top three teams, including $1,000 for first place.
The day’s events also include a kids cookoff, raffle tickets, a live auction and live music. The most recent ribfest included a car show.
Over the years, funds have gone toward Stanton library updates, the Stanton Baseball and Softball Association, Stanton High School weight room remodeling and tornado relief in Stanton County in 2014.
Reed said in the aftermath of that tornado, more relief efforts were concentrated in Pilger, which suffered significant damage after a tornado hit there as well. Stanton Ribfest raised $10,000 that year for relief, Reed said.
“We fed the linemen that were putting in lines (near Stanton). A lot of that was donated from our sponsors. Cooked hamburgers for two or three days straight,” Reed said. “They were over here, so they were forgotten about. We felt they were needing food.”
Other donations have gone toward the 4-H Shooter Club, the Junior and Senior baseball program, fireworks for Stanton’s Fourth of July display, the 4-H Shooter Trap Club and the Bronco wrestling team, as well as 4-H bedding for the Stanton County Fair.
Plus, donations go toward emergencies, benefits and, within the past year, scholarships.
Courtney Farrier, secretary of Stanton Ribfest, said two $250 scholarships were given to graduating Stanton seniors this year. For the upcoming school year, four scholarships will be awarded.
Farrier said two of those would be guaranteed for Stanton graduates, with the other two available to students in other communities.
Members of Stanton Ribfest also went to Lynch and Verdigre for flood relief efforts this spring.
“We were pretty fortunate as far as how we fared during the flood. We had a lot of people lose some stuff, but our town didn’t get decimated. And these little towns are easily overlooked. You don’t see much on the news about those little towns,” Chris Farrier said. “There’s a lot of people struggling over there, and they’re not getting the help ... so the two towns we went to, we went to those towns because those are kind of forgotten towns.
“Around here, we help out the little guys, so essentially we’re doing the same thing, just a few miles away,” he added.
They went to Verdigre first, even taking equipment to help with the cleanup efforts.
“Verdigre, after talking with them, they needed to be able to concentrate on working and not worrying about feeding all of the help coming in,” Reed said, adding that they fed about 300 there.
The town’s residents also recommended Stanton Ribfest members to make their way over to Lynch, which was in even worse shape.
“Lynch was crazy. Where the river that runs through there, we took a walk down there, you could see marks on the trees where, above my head, over 6 feet tall, the ice chunks had eliminated the bark,” Chris Farrier said. “And you look around, you can just imagine how high that water was, how much of that town was actually under water. It was something to see.”
Even more people were fed in Lynch, Reed said, adding that both towns were appreciative.
“Lynch, one of the contractors, wanted to leave a free-will donation. All of a sudden, we looked over (and) there was a jar full of cash,” Chris Farrier said. “We talked to the church people, and they told us what was going on. (We gave) that money back to Lynch to put toward the water system in the Spencer area.
“It felt awesome. People of all ages coming up and thanking you for coming down and helping them out. A lot of people couldn’t believe we weren’t wanting anything in return for it,” he added.
Sarah Prusa, who also serves as secretary, said she was in awe of how people came together in times of tragedy.
“And just seeing, when you go down, you see the devastation that’s down there, but you see all of these people working together for one common goal,” Prusa said. “You go down there and you see people that ... aren’t from there and you just see it and you’re just, it’s overwhelming to see the generosity that comes from people.”
They all said none of what they do would be possible without donors and sponsors.
“The outcry with the donations that they gave us to be able to help those people was incredible,” Courtney Farrier said.
The group is already working on next year’s Stanton Ribfest, which is hoped to be the biggest one yet.
The bigger it is, the more they can give, they said.
“(We are) looking to grow our event into more than just a rib competition,” Chris Farrier said. “And with the people we have and the support the community is showing us, that’s a very good possibility.”