Firing Up the Grills for the 2023 LABADIE RIB FEST

Bay City’s Legendary Celebration Returns July 27-30 with a Smorgasbord of Top-Flight Barbecue, National Entertainment, and Family Oriented Festivities

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, , Culture, ,   From Issue 948   By: Robert E Martin

13th July, 2023     0

“The modernity of yesterday is the tradition of today, and the modernity of today will be tradition tomorrow.” - Chef Jose Andres

One iconic and landmark festival that literally sizzles above all others during these dog days of summer is the  2023 LABADIE Rib Fest, which will return in all its mouth-watering and musically stimulating glory the weekend of July 27-30th at Bay City’s spacious Veterans Memorial Park.

Featuring 4-nights of headlining concerts starring 6 national bands, the area’s best regional bands slated to open the shows, and national award-winning rib vendors ranging from Michigan to Virginia to Texas, Philadelphia, Ohio, and Florida, the festival will also feature a family stage filled with activities and entertainment for all ages throughout the day.

Known as the ‘Pig Gig’ when it was first conceived by founder Wendy Dore back in 1992, a pivotal mission of the festival that continues to make it sparkle is how it was designed to better Bay City and is powered with the help of a number of non-profit partners, volunteers, and sponsors from throughout the community, giving them the opportunity to raise friends and increase memberships in their organizations, such as the Bay County Literacy Council, The Boys & Girls Club of Bay City, CAN Council, and Bay County Habitat for Humanity, to name but a few of the dozen-plus non-profit partners.

After a ten-year run that ended around 2012, Bay City advocate, businessman, and entertainment entrepreneur Jay Samborn decided to spearhead an effort to revive the festival last year, which resulted in a remarkably strong public response, proving that rather than turning into ash, in truth traditions ignite and inspire that spark of fire and engagement within a community.

When asked what first prompted him to explore firing the grills and stages back up for the Rib Fest, Samborn references the hole its absence left in the summer months.

“A lot of people had been talking and asking about bringing it back for years,” he explains. “Right before 2020 we met with the city about bringing the festival back and then the pandemic knocked it off the table; but things were set in motion so by the time 2022 came around, we were ready and I think everybody else in the community was also ready.”

One thing that certainly changed in the 10-year gap between the original Pig Gig and last year’s inaugural Rib Fest is the number of summer festivals that have spread like musical water lilies throughout the region. Despite its legacy, were there any new elements organizers felt needed to be added into the festival to distinguish it within the competitive summer festival market?

“After a decade of molding the Rib Fest into the event it became, I knew certain things would vary after a ten-year hiatus, but the core aspects of this event we had no intention of changing, because why bother changing a successful recipe,” notes Jay.

“Familiarity was the goal and if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” he continues, “but we did want to add some new activities such as the Cornhole Tournament, because that’s a big fad right now; and we also wanted to keep current and strong with the musical concert showcases, to keep competitive with other events going on.  Although, the nice thing about a 4-day event is that people can also attend other things if they want to and still attend the Rib Fest.”

“I think the Inaugural event last year surprised everyone,” continues Samborn. “I was pleasantly surprised it did so well. People were excited to bring their kids and grandkids to this event because they kind of grew up with it, so in that sense it’s somewhat of an organic event with plenty of things and levels to involve and engage with.”

“There’s a lot to be said for tradition and a lot of traditional events such as County Fairs are having a challenging time changing their role as younger generations are adapting to things that once drew; but in addition to the many original elements of the Rib Fest, this year we are also adding a new Motorcycle Rally on Sunday, July 30th, which will target different groups looking for a reason to ride their bikes, so they can ride from say Flint to the Rib Fest, par in the front with their bikes, and meet with the rest of their groups and enjoy the day with a cool event.”

Labadie Rib Fest Hours will run as follows: Thurs, July 27 - 4-11PM; Friday, July 28 - noon-11PM ; Saturday, July 29 - 11AM-11PM; Sunday, July 30 - 11AM - 8PM. Additionally, there will be a Celebrity Rib Cook-off on Friday, July 28th from noon to 1 PM with free admission. Featuring local news, radio, TV, and media personalities, they will be concocting their own special BBQ sauce recipes with the public voting for the favorite recipe in order to raise money for favorite charities.

The Bud Light Entertainment Tent will open each day at the same time as the festival gates and feature the area’s best local bands, while Outdoor Adventure will bring family entertainment such as musical acts, dance groups, magic shows, games, and contests into the mix. Plus they will feature a Little Piggy Market Place with area vendors, a Kids Zone, and Pig Racing.

Additionally, this year the Labadie Rib Fest will be adding the 5/K Run/Walk back into their program. Race participants will receive a wristband to enjoy the festival for the entire day of Saturday, July 29th, and entry to the race will get you a T-shirt and wristband for re-entry to the festival, which will have a major concert that evening and local bands in the beverage tent. Registration ends July 29th at 8:45 AM and the fee is $25.00, with the race running from 9 AM - 11 AM.

With the Rib Fest partnering up with Michigan Cornhole, the new Labadie Rib Fest Cornhole Tournaments will debut this year on Friday, July 28th.  There will be plenty of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages & BBQ. One tournament will be held on Friday night and the other Saturday, July 29th  during the day.   The tournament offers something for all skill levels and you must purchase a ticket to the Rib Fest which is $10 and then register online to play in the Tournaments at Veterans Memorial Park. Check-in will be at 5 PM on Friday, with bags flying at 6 PM; and Saturday check-in is Noon with bags flying at 1 PM.

The Divisions will be  Social & Competitive (depending on the amount of teams, divisions could be combined and cost stays the same).  Format: Bring Your Own Partner. Depending on amount of teams Rounders leading into a Double Elimination, Single Game Bracket. (This gives everyone a good amount of games). You can bring your own bags or use tournament provided bags. All bags must be regulation size and weight, and no corn-filled bags are allowed. The cost is $40 for a two-person team and $50 for a competitive two-person team. Prizes and payouts depend on the amount of teams who enter.

As for their Live Concert Showcase, you couldn’t ask for a better value, with general seating starting at only $10.00; Preferred seating with chair $30.00; and VIP w/chair only $45-$50, with all concert tickets including Rib Fest admission.

Here’s the line-up:


The Eagles founding member, the late Glenn Frey, knew what he was saying when he dubbed Little River Band “the best singing band in the world.” The current lineup of LRB takes that accolade to heart each and every time they perform.  Through the 70’s and 80’s, LRB enjoyed huge chart success with multi-platinum albums and chart topping hits like: “Reminiscing,” “Cool Change,” “Lonesome Loser,” “The Night Owls,” “Take It Easy On Me,” “Help Is on Its Way,” “Happy Anniversary,” “We Two,” “Man On Your Mind,” “The Other Guy,” and “It’s A Long Way There.”



With his new release Caught Up in the Country, one of country music’s biggest stars is starting his next chapter.  “Some of these songs were like carving a statue,” says Rodney Atkins. “You put a whole lot of stuff on there and then keep chipping away, so you only have left what you need—you figure out what’s just noise, what’s taking away, how do you make the lyrics really be heard. Sometimes you have to go way out there so you can come back.”

Atkins’ fifth studio album reveals an artist who is confident enough to know that making your best music can require patience and experimentation. While his storied career has reached such heights as being named the Top New Male Vocalist at the 2006 ACM awards and seeing his single “Watching You” become the Number One Song of the Decade according to Country Aircheck, it’s been more than seven years since Take a Back Road, his last record of new material. But Atkins knew that this time, he wanted to bring his songs further than he had ever gone before.



Lita Ford is an English-born American guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. She was the lead guitarist for the all-female rock band The Runaways in the late 1970s, and then embarked on a successful glam metal solo career that hit its peak in the late 1980s. The 1989 single “Close My Eyes Forever”, a duet with Ozzy Osbourne, remains Ford’s most successful song, reaching No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Dokken is an American glam metal band formed in Los Angeles in 1978. It split up in 1989 and reformed four years later. The band had several hit singles which charted on the Billboard Hot 100, such as “Alone Again”, “In My Dreams”, and “Burning Like a Flame”, and have sold more than 10 million albums worldwide. The live album Beast from the East was nominated for the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1989.



Molly Hatchet is an American rock band formed in 1971 by guitarist Dave Hlubek in Jacksonville, Florida. They were a popular band during the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s among the southern rock and hard rock communities. The band released six studio albums on Epic Records between 1978 and 1984, including the platinum-selling hit records Molly Hatchet (1978), Flirtin’ with Disaster (1979), and Beatin’ the Odds (1980).

Foghat are an English rock band formed in London in 1971. The band is known for the use of electric slide guitar in its music. The band has achieved eight gold records, one platinum and one double platinum record, and despite several line-up changes, continue to record and perform.


There will also be 4 days of entertainment in the Budweiser Beer Tent, which opens each day at the same time as the festival gates. Featuring the area's best local bands, the line-up is as follows: Thursday 4:00pm – Road Dawgz; Friday 2:00pm - Double Wide Rid; Saturday - 2:00pm – 2nd Hand Band; Sunday – 1:00pm – Swaggering Rogues.

When asked what the most challenging component is involved with bringing an event of this magnitude together, Jay references the planning and coordination involved. “I’ve been involved with this event since Wendy started staging it 20 years ago, handling the booking on the family stage and played a big part in lining up the live entertainment, so I paid attention to all the facets involved with producing and staging this event.”

“For myself, I went back and planned out things that needed to be done and blended them with new things we wanted to do, and it’s a full time job making sure everything falls into place,” he concludes. “It takes a solid four weeks of planning leading up to the event, and fortunately we’ve had a lot of people reaching out to be part of this and who want to get their kids involved. I’d say we have well over 100 volunteers who want to show up and draw awareness towards their charities, so it’s a win-win situation for all involved.”

“We create an atmosphere for charities to generate revenue within the event, and some are very vocal about the money they’ve raised,” he concludes. “Bay City Academy, for example, as raised $10,000 to take kids on 30 field trips with money, and we strive to make donations back to the charities and non-profits who volunteer to work and help us organize the event, based upon their participation.”

Tickets are available at and designated outlets to be announced, plus you can find our more information and last minute details.









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