SEVEN SPRINGS, Pa. - As a rib cook, Bill Ball travels across the country doing something that he loves - making people happy.
Ball, owner of Mojo's Rib Shack, based in Coolville, Ohio, will be one of the "ribbers" featured during the Seven Springs Mountain Resort Rib & Wing Festival, beginning Friday and running through Sunday.
"I bought Mojo in 2007. It sounded like a good way to make a living," Ball said. "It's a satisfying profession. I travel around and make a lot of people happy eating our barbecue. I enjoy the outdoors, traveling and being of service to people and making people happy."
Award-winning rib cook Bill Ball will be among the barbecue masters featured at the annual Seven Springs Mountain Resort Rib & Wing Festival Friday to Sunday.
While such events aren't new, there has been an increase in their popularity.
"It's been going on for 25 years or more. It is more of a Midwest thing - it's not as popular in other parts of the country. From Pennsylvania to Illinois it's popular. ... One reason is that other parts of the country - Georgia, Florida, South Carolina - have barbecue joints on every corner. A lot of people eat barbecue as a part of their normal diet. ... There's not that many good barbecue places in the Midwest," he said.
Ball, who grew up in northern Georgia, learned how to cook by trial and error and from his fellow ribbers. Before owning Mojo's, Ball worked as a fishing boat captain in Florida and before that he sold burglar alarms.
He and his fellow barbecue cooks, he noted, are like family. Many are members of the National Barbecuers Association. Ball is vice president of the group that he said adheres to high standards.
"We're like the cream of the crop. We have a good reputation for food safety and quality. We've won literally thousands of awards," he said. "People think with the volume we sell that it compromises the quality, but it doesn't."
For events the size of the Seven Springs festival, Ball estimates he cooks about 1,500 pounds of ribs alone with a crew of five or six people. For larger, multi-day events, sometimes he can cook 3,500 pounds a day with a crew of about 10.
In addition to Mojo's, there will be four other barbecue companies at Seven Springs: BG's BBQ, Smokin Joe's Hog Wild Barbecue, Pigfoot BBQ and Armadillo's BBQ & Rib Company. All are members of the National Barbecuers Association.
"The Rib & Wing Festival has become one of the premier summer events at Seven Springs," said resort spokesman Alex Moser. "Thousands of families have made summer memories at this incredible, family-friendly party at the base of our beautiful mountain."