For last year’s People’s Choice winners, RibFest is a family affair

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August 5 – While Big Boned BBQ owner Pat Nelson won’t tell you the secret behind his recipes, his family helps contribute to the recipe for his success.

The Minnesota State University graduate has owned the business for over 20 years and has participated in RibFest for 13 years.

Six people pitch in to help the family business, including himself, his brother, his two nieces and his parents.

While the company itself is based in South Carolina, they take it on the road every year across the Midwest.

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This year, they end their tour a 24-hour drive away, in the state where he spent a lot of time.

“I was a student here. I lived here and worked in the community for a number of years. So I love coming back,” Nelson said.

Early Thursday, they handed out rib samples at MSU ahead of their competition at RibFest.

Nelson said the community is what makes RibFest special.

“Specifically with cities this size, in communities like this, during the week we go and pick up things at different grocery stores and Home Depot and people see the name on the card and say, ‘Oh, are you guys at RibFest?’ It’s a big deal here,” he said.

Nelson said it’s the rub that makes his recipe unique.

“The sauce is great too, but it’s our rub. We have a special rub that we put on all our pork and our brisket and our ribs. We dry rub it and we serve it dry rub and then you can put sauce on them afterward. It’s a combination of 32 different herbs and spices. I can list them all for you, but I certainly won’t tell you how much of each one,” he said.

He said the rub, which has remained consistent over the years, is a mix of salty and sweet.

“So you can kind of guess. A little bit of garlic, a little bit of sugar, a little bit of salt,” he said.

And as for sauces, Nelson said they don’t change the recipes so much as they add new ones, and next year customers can expect something new on the menu.

“This year will be the last year we don’t have a South Carolina barbeque sauce,” Nelson said. “We’re from here, but we’ve lived in the South and in South Carolina for about 15 years now. When we get out on the road, people see that we’re from South Carolina on our signs, and they always ask if we have a mustard sauce because South Carolina specifically is where mustard barbecue sauce originated. So we’ve never had one, and in the past year we’ve developed a new sauce and now we’re ready to put it into production.”

Until now, the sauce and rub recipes have been his, but this recipe mixes inspiration from both himself and his mother.

“She’s the boss. It doesn’t matter who’s on any papers or who does what. Mom’s still the boss,” he said.

While mom may be the boss, Nelson co-owns the business with his brother, Benjamin, who said it’s great to be back stateside.

“It’s great, it’s fun. We were talking the other day about how great the people of Minnesota are to us,” he said. “It’s been fun coming back. We love coming to Mankato.”

And they hope to be crowned People’s Choice winners again.

“We like to think we have a consistent product that will give everyone a good opportunity to taste our barbecue and enjoy it,” Benjamin said.

RibFest runs through Sunday at Riverfront Park.