Roy Rogers
Roy Rogers
World-class musicians and the finest grill- and smoke-masters around will line Vaughn Drive in less than a month to share finger-licking treats and finger-picking blues.

The 13th annual Madison Ribberfest BBQ & Blues Festival is set for Aug. 15-16 at Bicentennial Park.

After two seasoned musical acts helped bring in record-breaking crowds in 2013 - between 13,000 and 14,000 visitors - the Ribberfest music committee has tabbed two more icons this year.

"We've grown every year (in attendance)," said Kathy Ayers, the festival coordinator. "It's such a popular event and the community really embraces it. I think it's almost become like a Madison reunion."

Taj Mahal, a Grammy Award winning musician and blues legend, will headline Friday night with his band the Taj Mahal Trio, while Roy Rogers, one of the world's premier slide guitarists, will close out the festival Saturday.

The two acts represent nearly every sub-category of the blues genre.

Taj Mahal is a self-taught singer-songwriter who channels American blues, roots music and often sounds of west Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

He's never been to Ribberfest, but he has been on the organizer's wish-list for some time.

"We've been trying to get him for years," Ayers said.

Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings visited Ribberfest eight years ago. Rogers, a virtuoso of the slide guitar, toured with John Lee Hooker's Coast to Coast Band in the 1980s and has garnered eight Grammy nominations.

The festival events kick off Friday morning with the annual Madison Courier Backyard BBQ Blast, the amateur competition which attracts cookers from across the Midwest. The professional Kansas City Barbeque Society competition is Saturday.

The amateur teams compete in categories of chicken, ribs, brisket, pork, game, sauce and rub. The competition is judged Friday evening in the Brown Gym. Last year, there were more than 40 teams - the biggest turnout yet.

Professional teams will compete in categories of chicken, pork ribs, pork, beef brisket, barbeque sauce, anything butt and dessert.

There are 60 professional teams, all of which signed up months in advance.

Festival wristbands will stay at $20 this year.

There is a limited number of pre-sale wristbands that include food coupons. Tickets are available at local businesses as well as the Madison Visitor's Center.

Tickets also can be purchased on the event website, www.madisonribberfest.com, or by phone at (812) 265-2956 or (800) 559-2956.

Other events at Ribberfest will include:

• PigMania - A competition in which local businesses and organizations decorate a ceramic pig and then display it on Vaughn Drive. Visitors then donate money or food tickets toward the pig with the best design. The donations go to a local scholarship fund. Judges select an annual winner, and the pig with the most donations wins the People's Choice Award.

"That has become one of the largest portions of the event, as far as drawing people, because the businesses have become really competitive with their creativity," Ayers said.

• Kidz Q - The competition on Saturday allows kids 8-15 to learn the art of barbeque.

This year the contestants will prepare pork chops and create their own recipe and their own sauce. The kids compete in two age categories, 8-11 and 12-15.

First-place winners will earn $200 and second-place receives $100.

• RibberRun and RibberRide - The annual 5K walk/run is set for Saturday at 8 a.m., and the bicycle ride, which is new this year, will start at 7:50 a.m.

The races begin at Fireman's Park on Vaughn Drive.

The bicycle ride, hosted by the Madison Bicycle Club, is divided into two sections - a 23-mile course and 62-mile track.

Registration for the run or ride is $15 per person before Aug. 8 and $20 the day of the race.

• River Cruise - The Queen City Riverboat will be available Friday evening and every two hours on Saturday starting at 12:30 p.m.

Rides are $15 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-12. Adult prices are reduced to $10 with a 2014 Ribberfest wristband.

• Piglet Pen - Kiwanis Park again will host the children's' play section during the festival. The area will open Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Saturday noon to 4 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m.

A magician will perform both evenings at 6 p.m.

The prices are $6 per session. There is a special family rate of $5 each for two siblings and $4 each for three or more siblings.