KCBS: Gene Copeland, left, sprinkles brown sugar on a rack of ribs with help from teammate, Brent Copeland, in preparation for the Madison Ribberfest Kansas City Barbeque Society contest Saturday. Their team, Butt-N-Racks BBQ, which is made up of mostly Madison residents, has competed in the contest for seven years. (Staff photo by Seth Grundhoefer/sgrundhoefer@madisoncourier.com)
KCBS: Gene Copeland, left, sprinkles brown sugar on a rack of ribs with help from teammate, Brent Copeland, in preparation for the Madison Ribberfest Kansas City Barbeque Society contest Saturday. Their team, Butt-N-Racks BBQ, which is made up of mostly Madison residents, has competed in the contest for seven years. (Staff photo by Seth Grundhoefer/sgrundhoefer@madisoncourier.com)
It was a year of records for the 12th annual Madison Ribberfest.

The two-day festival had its largest crowd ever, and it featured more Kidz-Q teams, amateur barbeque competition teams and PigMania entries than ever before.

The mild and beautiful weather also set the backdrop for what would turn out to be a successful two-day celebration, festival organizers said.

Kathy Ayers, festival coordinator, said she estimates that between 13,000 and 15,000 visitors flocked to the riverfront for the festivities.

"Unequivocally the largest crowd we've ever had," she said. "And I thought it was a good crowd, too. They were respectful of each other and courteous."

Saturday's shows included six acts, including Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who has played professionally since his he was a teenager.

Friday's headliner Robert Randolph and the Family Band played for more than two hours, focusing on songs from their new album, "Lickety Split."

Ayers said she felt visitors responded to the fact that the festival had two big-name performers this year in Randolph and Shepherd.

She also noted that both headliners gave extended encores and generously played over their contracted time.

"They don't do that unless they're having fun up there," Ayers said.

Randolph gave an energetic performance behind his pedal-steel guitar and invited audience members on stage twice during his show. His set included a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child" and an instrumental version of "God Bless America."

Rob Bingham, a Louisville resident, took advantage of a generous offer when Randolph repeatedly gestured for a crowd member to strap on a guitar and join him on stage.

Bingham jogged up from the audience and quickly joined in the band's blues progression jam session and even bravely worked in a solo. He said he was amazed that no one else in the crowd accepted the offer.

"He get kept pointing and no one would go up. And I was like, 'I wanna go jam with Robert,'" Bingham said.  

The Lloyd Jones Band opened the festival on Friday night. The Portland, Ore., guitarist has toured with the best in the blues business during his 30-year career and played countless festivals.

Jones said the Madison crowd was "really, really wonderful" and joked that the event was one of the "best-smelling festivals" he's ever played.

Ayers said she also heard great feedback from the performance of Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, who performed directly before Shepherd.

"Everyone seemed to really enjoy them," she said.

Off the stage, Ayers said many of the traditional events continued to grow this year - in creativity and participants. The PigMania contest - where local businesses and residents design concrete pigs - had more than 50 entries and included some of the wittiest concepts yet.

Thornton Terrace won the people's choice award for its Sam I Am entry based on the Dr. Seuss book "Green Eggs and Ham." The judge's award went to Hoboken Eddie's entry, When Pigs Fly.

"I think the creativity in that this year was outstanding," Ayers said. "And every year it is great, but it keeps getting better and better."