SPARKS, NV - Some of the vendors at the rib cook-off are not too far from home, but there are many that travel thousands of miles every year for the event. Rather than pay to have an entire crew make the trek, they seek out help from the surrounding communities. Most of the people they recruit return year after year. Donna Rice of Ohio-based Desperado's BBQ and Rib Co. says most of her workers have been with her for 10 years or more.
"To do the volume of business that we do here, you need to have somebody that you don't need to train," she says.
This is Lynne Lupinetti's 11th year making the trip to the rib cook-off all the way from New Jersey. Some of her workers at the Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ booth were teenage girls trying to raise money for their cheerleading squad when they started. Now, many of them continue to come back to earn a little extra cash for college.
"They've just started school for the season and they have a lot of expenses for books and commuting costs and this definitely helps them out," she says.
Then there are people like Ken Gallop who got involved simply for his love of barbeque.
"I'm a backyard BBQ-er like most people and simply wanted to learn more about barbeque and ribs, and maybe some tips and tricks," he says.
Willie Stevens started working with Desperado's BBQ and Rib Co. more than ten years ago to raise money for his daughter's traveling soccer team, and he's been coming back ever since.
"We went to regionals in Utah, and between me and my wife working, this paid for our trip and my daughter's expenses to go to the tournament," says Stevens.
Stevens has continued his tradition of getting young people involved by bringing local kids out to the event to give them work experience.
"It's a chance for them to get to work in kind of a different environment than your McDonald's or your Wendy's. It's kind of a fast paced, crazy little world," he says.
The vendors say, for many of the people that return to help, it doesn't really feel like work.
"They've become our extended family. We can't wait to see them and they can't wait to see us pull in," says Lupinetti.