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Beer, Clydesdales and More Ribs Than You Can Handle at Rock’n Ribfest

About 10 miles south of Manchester, you’ll find the beautiful community of Merrimack, New Hampshire. Merrimack is a wonderful place to visit and live. This city is filled with friendly faces, great events and a variety activities to enjoy.


Incorporated back in 1746, the city only had around 50 families living here permanently during colonial times. The original economy of the town was based on agriculture and this lasted until the mid-19th Century, when newly established railways brought new residents and opportunities into town. During the 20th Century, the city continued to grow as the highway system was implemented locally after WWII.   This allowed people to access Merrimack with ease. The town quickly became known as a top place to live in the region, and was recognized by CNN Money Magazine in 2013 as one of the “Top Place to Live in America”. Today, Merrimack has a population of over 25,000 and it’s features a great set of fun things to do.


Between the friendly people and the scenic surroundings, you're bound to have a great time visiting Merrimack. The naturally beautiful landscape is perfect for a driving tour and you’ll find some great routes in and around town. The Budweiser Merrimack Brewery offers tours, tastings and some great community events. The area is also home to a great series of public parks, which are clean and great for relaxing and taking in the local sights and sounds of the city. A perfect time to visit Merrimack is during the month of June for one of the region's top events, Rock’n Ribfest.


Founded in 2001 as a fundraising event for the Rotary Club of Nashua West, this festival has grown into a can’t-miss event for the city and surrounding communities. This family friendly festival attracts tens of thousands of people annually and this year they are expecting to see around 45,000 in attendance. This event truly has something for everyone, ranging from a 5k run to a multitude of activities for kids. If you're thinking of visiting the beautiful Northeastern United States, make sure to plan a stop in Merrimack for Rock’n Ribfest; you won't be disappointed! got the chance to interview Lee Allison, Executive Adminstrator for Rock’n Ribfest, to talk about this fun festival.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.

LA: 2016 will be our 14th year. In 2001, the club was looking for a major fundraising event and one of our members suggested a beer and ribfest similar to one he had visited at an out-of-state Rotary Club event. We held our first festival in 2002 and even though it rained, people still came. Depending on the weather we can have as many as 45,000 go through the gates over three days.


RAL: What is the typical demographic makeup of the event?

LA: It is billed as a family event that is held over the Father's Day weekend. However we find the demographics are different for each day. For example, Fridays can open up as family night for dinner and morph into a date night for couples. Saturday it is usually families, but again changes during the evening to groups of singles and couples. We see primarily families of multiple generations and current and retired military personnel on the final day of the festival. Sunday is also Military Appreciation, when active duty and retired military get free admission with up to four family members with a valid military ID.


RAL: What makes this event unique?  

LA: This the first major summer festival for Southern New Hampshire. We bring in Professional Ribbers from around the country. The event is completely run by volunteers and is put on by the Rotary Club of Nashua West. You’ll find us in our signature blue shirts, along with our families and friends, plus hundreds of volunteers from area non-profits, who ultimately are the beneficiaries of the event.


RAL: Take me through a day at the event.

LA: After parking at one of the outlying parking lots located at BAE, Harris Pond, Fidelity and Elbit, take a courtesy bus to the Anheuser Busch Brewery sports grounds. AB will have brewery tours available and the Clydesdales are in the barns which are open to visitors. There is a long main concourse, where off to the left are non-food vendors with face painters, BBQ sauces, t-shirts, etc. To the right are sponsor booths showcasing their products and services. Further up the concourse you will find the entrance to the kid's activity areas, where there will be bouncy houses, an exploration area sponsored by the Nashua Adult Learning Center and a display of model trains. There is also a kid's stage where groups of dancers, karate schools, baton-twirlers, and more will perform during the daylight hours.


If you want to satisfy your thirst with an alcoholic beverage stop at the Beer ID/Ticket tent. Remember, we card EVERYONE to ensure we comply with NH state law. Get your wristband that proves you are 21, then purchase tickets to trade for beer, hard cider at $5/each. The ID tent marks the entrance to the Beer Experience. This year Anheuser Busch is bringing in their Interactive Brewing truck where you can walk through to see the whole brewing process.

On the other side of the concourse is the food court. We are proud to feature a lineup of nine professional ribbers coming from Texas, Virginia, Australia, Pennsylvania, Canada and New England. Along with Ribs, pulled pork, and associated sides, there are vendors providing the usual festival food like blooming onions, french fries and almost any festival food you can imagine.


This year we have three Clydesdale photo ops available in the Beer Experience Area. Times are: Friday 6-7:00 pm, Saturday 1-2:00 pm and Sunday 1-2:00 pm. This is a free opportunity, however, we would ask for a donation to the Humane Society of Greater Nashua. Our own mascot Squealz (our big pink pig) will be there and the mascots from the Fisher Cats and Monarchs will also make appearances.  Also Miss New Hampshire will make an appearance and sometimes even the governor and other political figures attend.


The Elbit parking lot, directly across the street from Anheuser Busch is the only one with a fee - $10. The proceeds go to the Leukemia Society and Marguerite's place in Nashua.


If your thing is running, sign up for the 5Miler race on Sunday morning. It’s sponsored by St. Joseph's Hospital and it’s facilitated by Millennium Running.


If your thing is bicycling, there is the Saturday morning RibRide put on by the Nashua Youth Council. Two courses have been outlined, one for 25 miles the other for 50 miles.


RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?

LA: Just up the road from the event is Hawthorne Suites and a Marriott Residence Inn. Further up the road you’ll find a Holiday Inn Express. In Nashua, off Exit 8, you can find the Crowne Plaza, another Marriott Residence Inn, Extended Stay America, Courtyard by Marriott, and Hampton Inn. There are other hotels in Nashua and in Manchester.


RAL: Does the event drive extra business to the community?

LA: I believe it does drive extra business. We had an email a couple of years ago from a family that came from out of state. They told us they spent money at the hotel, restaurants and even ended up buying a car from a local dealer (that was not in the original plans).


RAL: Does the festival support any special causes?

LA: The event is the annual fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Nashua West.  All proceeds from sponsorships, entrance tickets, kids activities, beer sales and water/soda sales plus vendor fees are intended to be used to provide grants to nonprofits in the greater Nashua area, scholarships to seniors from schools in Nashua, Hudson and Amherst, and donations to Rotary International projects. Over the past 13 years we have been able to give back over $1M to the community.


RAL: Why should people come to your event?

LA: Winter is over, the sun is out, it's a great opportunity to enjoy music, food and time with family and friends. We've had families there celebrating major birthdays, anniversaries and more. We try to change it a bit every year so it doesn't get boring and we have lots of great ideas for the next couple of years!

For more information about Rock’n Ribfest, please visit their website.