"Summer staple Rib America returns to downtown St. Louis May 27 - 30 with Puddle of Mudd, Kansas, Montrose, Candlebox, .38 Special and several more acts," read the Feb, 15, 2011 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Kevin C. Johnson, pop music critic.
The traveling festival will be hosted at Soldiers Memorial Field, just north of St. Louis City Hall, and is presented by U. S. Cellular. The article stated: "Admission is free before 5 p.m. May 27 and before 1 p.m. the rest of the dates. Admission is $6.00 after 5 p.m. on May 27 and after 1 p.m. the other days. Children 12 and under get in free," according to the article.
The 2010 Memorial Day Rib America event was reviewed by Paul Kjorlie, pop music critic for Soulard. His review was titled "Let’s Run the 2011 Rib America out-of-town" and subtitled "Rib America is a consumer rip-off." Following is his review from last year:
Would you pay $90 for two plates of ribs ?
For 7 hours, on Sunday, while at my part-time job at a parking lot, near Rib America; I saw, first-hand how Rib America rips-off people. One older man parked on our lot (a $5 charge) and said he wanted to get some ribs for Memorial Day weekend. He came back, a short time later, with this account: He went to one of the vendors and ordered two plates of ribs. He was told the cost was $54. He was shocked but still handed the person the money - but was told he had to pay with tickets. He went to buy the tickets and was then told he had to buy $80 worth. Shouldn't they be happy with just gouging him for the $54, and not want to squeeze him for even more ? Note: He had already paid $5 for admission that afternoon. In the past, that charge started at 5 P.M.. That charge was instituted after many people came just to hear the has-been bands in the evening and didn't buy food. With these prices, they must have paid aging rocker Bret Michaels, who just had a "warning stroke," a lot - to tempt him to risk his health to perform against his doctors wishes.
Needless to say, this veteran (I assumed, since he was wearing one of those battleship hats.) left hungry. Even though it was against our company policy, I refunded his parking fee - since I had no intention of being a party to ripping off this veteran, anymore, on Memorial Day. That's not how we should honor our soldiers.
Ticket Policy is a Scam
One would think that they would be happy with charging $54 for two plates of ribs. However, like our Fair St. Louis had done recently, you get fewer tickets than what you pay for. I believe Fair St. Louis explained their con as "administrative costs". Also, all their prices at Rib America are apparently in odd numbers - so you are left with small amounts of worthless tickets that won't buy anything. One young college couple told me that they begged the Gus's Pretzels vendor to take only 3 tickets, rather than the 4, for a small bag of pretzel sticks.
Rib America reflects poorly on our city
The above veteran wasn't the only one to leave disappointed. A group of Hispanics arrived by van and asked what the event was. I told them and they said, "Great, we're starving !" They came back shortly and didn't say a thing as they probably left for a fast food joint. Our parking lot did well by turning over parking spaces several times. As the hungry and disappointed left, their parking spaces were quickly replaced by new suckers. I guess, by now, most St. Louisans know enough to avoid the event. One person, from Ohio, said to me a bit angrily, "So this is how St. Louis does it ?". I tried to tell him that Rib America is a national thing that travels all over our country scamming people, like the Snake Oil Salesmen of the old west - but he was in no mood to hear my defense of my city.
Attendees are in "lock down"
The college couple also explained that they were told that there were no stamping of hands if they wanted to leave the event. They said they wanted to check out downtown St. Louis but were prevented from doing so. However, they did say they enjoyed the has-been bands for only $5. Some downtown businesses might have benefitted from increased business if the attendees were allowed to leave and avoid repaying a re-admission charge.
Our local St. Louis media aids this rip off
Every year, St. Louis media touts this event as something to do. Local TV stations show mouth-watering visions of ribs on their HDTV broadcasts. (By the way, I had no idea food could look so good on TV until I got my first HDTV a few months ago.) Our lame media doesn't even warn people that they should bring lots and lots of money. They only seem to mention the $5 admission charge which is just a beginning of bad things to happen to ones wallet. Restaurant reviewers usually always mention cost - but festival reviewers don't. Shame on them for wasting many peoples time and gasoline.
A doomed enterprise?
One would think that, after years of ripping people off, that Rib America will meet the same, well-deserved demise as our corrupt local bankrupt auto-warrantor U.S. Fidelis. Apparently, as P.T. Barnum once said, "There is a sucker born every minute." However, apparently this years event only had 8, or so, vendors. Is it the bad economy or vendor disenchantment over not winning one of the hundreds of cooking trophies on display? Will Rib America die of its own greed? We can only hope so.
St. Louis can do better
Hey, is St. Louis so desperate for something to do, on of all holidays, Memorial Day that we tolerate having our pockets picked by transients? Why not encourage people to patronize one of the events at local non-profits, like the Greekfest? Baklavas not your style? Then why don't we have local promoters organize a St. Louis Ribfest that promotes our local barbecue joints ? St. Louis isn't the barbecue waste land that it was when I moved here over 30 years ago. We now have some deserving local BBQ joints that need our encouragement. Come on, city leaders, let's show some leadership here. The long term benefits to our city by having year-round profitable BBQ establishments will outweigh any short term flirtations with traveling con men.
Questions for Mayor Slay
Some of my cynical friends have said that the City of St. Louis has its own "hands in the till, also." Is that true, Mayor Slay? Just how much revenue does this event bring into the city? I'm sure, as wise money handlers, that our city officials collect permits and fees from Rib America - in addition to sales taxes paid by the promoter. After all, they do have the use of closed city streets and the park areas north of City Hall. Just what does the city charge them, Mayor Slay? While we are on the subject, just what does the city take in from our other festivals - like Mardi Gras and others?
Final question, Mayor Slay: Is all of this ill-will created by Rib America and resulting bad impressions of St. Louis worth it? Is this an event we want on the day we honor our veterans? Is that why they sacrificed - so some of their country men can rip-off citizens?