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A Fargo Guide To Happy Harry’s Ribfest 2019

Photos Courtesy Of Scott Theun/Happy Harry’s Ribfest

It’s that time of year again, Fargoans. When we all descend on the Fargodome parking lot for the best in barbecue, music and friendship. However, I am not talking about a North Dakota State tailgate, folks. Happy Harry’s Ribfest will kick off tomorrow at 11 a.m. and will run until Saturday at 11 p.m. In the span of a few days, our community will gather together and bond as one over some fantastic food. With that in mind, we decided to come up with a handy guide with everything you need to know about the annual festival.

The Food

The number one reason you’re heading to Happy Harry’s Ribfest is the food, right? If you’re not, then you may need to re-think your priorities when attending. However, below are the rib cookers who will be firing up their meat specialties this year.

Aussom Aussie’s BBQ (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Cowboys Barbecue and Rib Co. (Weatherford, Texas)
Desperado BBQ and Ribs (Hinckley, Ohio)
Johnson’s Bar-B-Que (Chesapeake, Va.)
Blazin’ Bronco BBQ (Port St Lucie, Fla.)
Porky N’ Beans (Port St Lucie, Fla.)
Rasta Joe’s BBQ (Plymouth, Ind.)

PRO RIBFESTER TIP: Bring a towel from home, you will get a serious case of meat sweats. 

Not only will these phenomenal vendors be serving up ribs, pulled pork, brisket and any meat incarnation under the sun, they will also have their home-spun sides. From mac and cheese to coleslaw and even cornbread, you will be stuffed to the brim. You can always pair that with an ice cold beer too.

Yet, true Ribfesters know that your food coma journey is not yet complete. A deep fried Oreo or any number of over the top sweet treats will be your next item of business. Finally, you will need to find a chair because the coma is on the horizon. Luckily, it will be a coma filled with a sort of barbecue euphoria. Pure bliss.

The Music

Now, I’m a total music nerd (most of you who really know me know that fact). So when I learned that Vince Neil, Firehouse and KIX (among others) were coming to this year’s Ribfest, I was ecstatic. I’ve always been weirdly interested in the 80s “glam metal” or “hair band” era and those three were majors players in that movement. My main point here being that if you see a younger guy (I’m 25) jamming out with your aunt this week, it’s likely me…

Anyway, Neil, formerly of Mötley Crüe will grace the stage on the opening night. The great thing about Ribfest is that local bands are always the opening acts for these major acts. Tripwire will be Neil’s opener tomorrow night. Now, Neil and The Crüe have seen a wild resurgence in popularity after Netflix produced a live action movie based on the band’s autobiography. While the film was a good representation of what Mötley Crüe did and hit the major highlights in their debauchery, it truly only scratched the surface. Take whatever you saw in that movie and quadruple it, that might be a more accurate representation of the sort of degeneracy these guys got into.

At the center of it was Vince Neil, the frontman. He’ll be belting out his Crüe hits, of course, but look for more solo work as well.

Thursday will see Slamabama open for country artist Russell Dickerson. The Union City, Tennessee, native has capitalized on the more “popfied” version of country music. In most cases, that leads to songs that are perfect for summer nights and sing-a-longs. Hence why Dickerson fits in nicely at Ribfest.

Another country artist will take the stage on Friday night in the form of legendary group Sawyer Brown. Local giant 32 Below will be the opener for the band that has released 18 studio albums since 1984. Look for a more traditional form of country music with a little more twang as compared to a drum machine.

While both KIX and Firehouse will grace the stage on Saturday night and they are grouped into the same genre, they couldn’t be more different. KIX has been around since 1977 kicking around in the club scene before they found commercial success in the late 80s. What they offer up is a little heavier brand of rock with more power chords, riffy guitar and thunderous drums.

Firehouse has that in their catalog, but they rose to popularity as the traditional hair band was on the way out in the early 1990s. A focus on production value in the “glam metal” genre (pioneered by Def Leppard) led to several bands upping their focus on a more diverse selection of tunes as compared to the straight forward rock that bands like Mötley Crüe made a living off of in the early to mid-80s.

To rein this conversation in, the two are somewhat similar, but both offer up different brands of rock. For example, the opening riff to Firehouse’s “Don’t Treat Me Bad” sounds like something from a Matchbox Twenty song (They were not founded until 1995, mind you). I don’t think you could make the same comparison in one of KIX’s songs.

Whatever kind of music you enjoy, Happy Harry’s Ribfest has once again delivered on bringing in a great and eclectic group of artists.

For The Family

The true beauty of Ribfest lies in the fact that it is a family friendly event. While it is sponsored by a liquor store, that should not turn Fargo parents off to bringing their kids to the event. On Saturday, Ribfest will be hosting its annual “Riblet Fest” from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. At this time, there is free admission and parking and kids can enter to win prizes. Notable local children’s group Penny & Pals will also be performing at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. that day.

Outside of the Saturday Riblet Fest, the event will offer a whole host of games, bouncy houses and other kid-friendly things around the Fargodome lot. Games Galore provides that entertainment each day at Ribfest. Below are the price breakdowns by day for a Games Galore wristband.


11 a.m.-1 p.m. – $9 wristbands
1 p.m.-11 p.m. – $13 wristbands
Children under 5 – $7 wristbands anytime


11 a.m.-2 p.m. – $9 wristbands
2 p.m.-11 p.m. – $13 wristbands
Children under 5 – $7 wristbands anytime

You never have to think that Ribfest is an “adult only” event. Load up the car and take the whole family along for the ride.

Times, Numbers And Other Formalities

Gates open at 11 a.m. each day and will close at 11 p.m. every night. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Happy Harry’s Ribfest will offer up their classic “Lip Smackin’ Lunch Special”. From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on those days there will be free admission and parking. On top of that, hungry Ribfest-goers will be able to take advantage of two free sides with the purchase of any meat at any of the participating vendors. The first 100 attendees on those days will get a free premium gift too.

PRO RIBFESTER TIP: Take advantage of the Lip Smackin’ Lunch Special. I mean, two free sides and all you have to do is buy some delicious barbecue first? It can’t get much better. 

Outside of the lunch hour and the Riblet Fest on Saturday, admission and parking will be $5 each. Be smart and load up one car to avoid paying multiple parking fees.

All featured entertainment will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will conclude around 10:30 p.m. each night. Outside of Saturday night, each artist will have a local opening act as well. Get there early if you want to get some prime real estate to watch your favorite performer.

See you in the lot, Fargo! I’ll be the one sleeping on a wooden spool in leather pants…

Written by Brady Drake

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