2014 Rhythm & Ribs called a home run

A huge smoker is used to cook meat by the Rub Your Meat BBQ team at the 9th Annual Rhythm and Ribs cook-off on Saturday. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

A huge smoker is used to cook meat by the Rub Your Meat BBQ team at the 9th Annual Rhythm and Ribs cook-off on Saturday. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

COTTONWOOD -- Organizers say the numbers will tell the story and those have not yet been tabulated. But, the gut impression is that Rhythm and Ribs in its 9th year has finally hit its stride.

Brad Miller of Yavapai Broadcasting hailed the event Friday and Saturday as the best ever. Councilman Terence Pratt, who welcomed the crowd both nights, agreed.

"It was well attended. We had good participation by the barbecue vendors as well as other vendors," said Pratt. "The music was terrific. I think we had the best one ever."

Rhythm and Ribs this year made a full conversion to a country music festival bringing in up-and-coming national and Arizona acts, filling the stage from 4:30 until 10 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday.

Friday audiences heard Madeline Deveroux, Austin Webb leading up to Friday headliner Sam Hunt.

Saturday was Stolen Boulevard, Jed Morrison, Logan Brill, Briana Payne and the Boys, Ashley Wineland, Benton Blount and Kristian Bush of Sugarland.

"I thought it was a home run, especially the performances," said Miller, who helped with the promotion of the event. "The goal was to bring in some up and comers and the freshest and newest voices out of Nashville. Sam Hunt ... his song is number 6 this week, 'Leave the Night On.' One couple drove from Santa Fe or Albuquerque just to see him. This kid Austin Webb was surprising, He's low key south Carolina boy but, you put him on stage and he goes bananas. He's the one that climbed the light tower. He had the audience on their feet. Bush, of Sugarland fame, he is as far from a pretentious rock star as you can get. He spent a lot of time with fans signing autographs. His songs are upbeat and left a positive message."

Ashley Wineland had her act cut short by the rain, but she just dried her hair and set up out in the audience with her acoustic guitar and played until the stage was reset.

"I thought they had just the right mix of new county with some of our local folks. They had a more traditional flavor as well. I was really impressed. I was thrilled to be a part of it," said Miller.

"It gave people the option to go one or both days, it allowed people to come in from around the region and even other states," said promoter Gigi Rock. "Now, they are staying for a two-day festival and have time to spend in Jerome and Sedona and it brings more revenue into the area, and that is the goal."

She described the event as "awesome, it blew it out of the park."

"The local acts were crazy good," Rock enthused. "I don't think we could have done better with the new up and coming national acts."

Food was provided by the Kansas City Barbeque Society and Great American Cookout.

The Boot Campaign with its auctions raised over $4,000.

Police say the crowd was well-behaved. Only a single incident was reported during the night in which one man thought another was dancing with his partner and threw a punch. He was charged and taken to jail.

Productions such as Rhythm and Ribs and Thunder Valley Rally bring people to town for an event with the expectation they will spend money and stimulate the local economy.

Cottonwood Community Services General Manager Richard Faust said the city council wants to know whether the destination event this past weekend did its job.

"The council is very specific, 'How are you going to market to success and how are you going to determine success?"

"We decided to work on our marketing strategy, go into Phoenix and the Flagstaff areas and promote to digital and using billboards in Phoenix."

"We doubled up our advertising sponsorship this year for both Rhythm and Ribs and Thunder Valley Rally. We piggy-backed the two events on the transit buses with bus wraps and got a double bang for the buck."

"The success will also be dependant on major sponsorships, Budweiser, Nackard, Pepsi. Also, How well did the microbreweries do? How well did the Chamber of Commerce do on sales. How well did the KCBS vendors do. And of course, we wanted to make sure we have good ticket sales. That is what the council wants to see."

Faust believes this year's event drew one of the larges crowds since Marshal Tucker Band in 2005.

Faust said he felt they gathered about 2,000 ticket holders each day this year. Gigi Rock estimated 2,500 to 3,000 each day.

The majority of the ticket sales were for a single day, according to Faust. "That we do know. Our main goal was to see if we could increase by 20-30 percent. One of the biggest pushes was sponsorships. We would have been able to reach the numbers we did without Yavapai Broadcasting. Brad Miller was getting the word out and playing the music of each singer and interviewing each one on the radio and playing their songs. I think we changed it from a one-day event to a two-day. I think we exploded it."

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