Berlin Harvest Festival and Rib Cook-off driven by community

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While the ribs may take center stage at the annual Berlin Harvest Festival, Berlin Main Street Merchants President Doug Burgess said what this event is really all about is community.

“It’s so much about our community,” Burgess said. “Everyone involved, from the board members to committees and the many people who donate to the event, it is about celebrating the sense of community.”

The annual Berlin Harvest Festival & Rib Cook-off will take place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9-10, where all along Main Street there will be numerous rib vendors set up. In addition, there will be vendors selling other food. Tack on plenty of demonstrations and activities for the kids, along with a slate of live musical performances on the stage at the square, and it’s easy to see why people crowd the streets of Berlin during a weekend that has become a staple in Holmes County.

“All of these wonderful things come together for a sensational weekend,” Burgess said. “It all began to celebrate the annual harvest, but it has become a celebration of community and opening our arms to visitors in a special way.”

This two-day event brings the aroma and flavor of the rib cook-off, where many vendors will not only provide treats for the masses, but also will compete for the People’s Choice, Judge’s Choice and Best of Show.

Not only that, but there will be plenty of other food and activities.

Burgess said the event has blossomed into a country-style festival that is ideal for the entire family.

Part of that is supporting local families and organizations who are chosen as beneficiaries through the various fundraisers.

There will be an auction on Friday beginning at 6 p.m. Many local businesses have donated items that will be auctioned off on the square.

“Again, we see the local community coming through in a big way by providing some really high-quality items for the auction,” Burgess said.

There will be a raffle with smaller items that will run through Friday and Saturday, with donations from area merchants creating a way to give back to the community. The winners will be drawn Saturday right before the grand parade.

The event also sells T-shirts, with this year’s shirts sponsored by Pomerene Hospital.

Proceeds from these fundraisers always go to different families or organizations, and this year’s recipients will be the family of Nevin Mishler, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment, and the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center, an organization Burgess said plays a huge role in building the growth of Berlin and the Amish and Mennonite heritage that is a focal point to the area.

Those who attend can enjoy two days of live entertainment on the stage, and this year two events will put an exclamation point on both evenings.

The first is the Friday night fireworks that will light up the night sky at around 8:45 p.m. behind Shiyah Market. Burgess said the fireworks are another testament to the commitment by the community.

“We had the idea of fireworks a couple years ago, and we raised funds but came up short, and then Steve and Ruth Schlabach said they would cover whatever was needed,” Burgess said. “This year they said they wanted to just sponsor all the fireworks because they felt it added a lot to the weekend. That’s the type of support we keep seeing.”

The grand finale on Saturday will feature the Harvest Festival Parade, which will kick off around 6 p.m. Locals and out-of-town visitors can grab a place along Main Street and watch tractors, horse-drawn wagons and floats designed by area business owners, families, fire departments, school bands and organizations throughout Holmes County.

As for the two-day rib cook-off, it will feature entrepreneurs from near and far.

The rib cook-off has grown over the years and has become the most highly anticipated event of the weekend, with varieties of ribs ranging from sweet to spicy.

Contestants for the cook-off will line both sides of the street from one end of downtown Berlin to the square, and patrons can grab a rib by the bone or by the rack, sampling one or trying each entry’s creations.

“For those who haven’t tasted the ribs for our event, they are incredible,” Burgess said. “The vendors always bring out their best and really put on a great show.”

So mix the aroma of ribs on the burner, the sound of a grand parade, the aura of fireworks, the beat of bluegrass and country music, and the laughter and chatter that comes from people enjoying a big event, and you’ve got something the whole family can enjoy with homemade kettle corn and ice cream, fry pies and noodles, and plenty more activities.

As the leaves begin to turn various shades, the annual Berlin Harvest Festival & Rib Cook-off provides a relaxing, tasty time.

For more information about the Harvest Festival Parade & Rib Cook-off, visit the website at To participate in the parade, call the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce at 330-674-3975, email info@holmescountychamber or visit the website at