The Pitt Panthers home opener against UMass is set for Saturday, and the Steelers Run & Walk will be held Sunday morning.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It smells like the start of football season on the North Shore because the Heinz Field Kickoff and Rib Fest is back.

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Grillmasters are firing up their grills for mouthwatering ribs outside of Heinz Field until Monday. They’re happy to be working their magic after the pandemic shut down the event last year.

If you’re excited about the football season and love barbecue food, this is the place to be this Labor Day weekend.

“Everyone is excited about the return of Rib Fest, smells like ribs everywhere on the North Shore,” said John Wodarek, the entertainment and operations manager for the Steelers.

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There are 15 rib vendors from all over the country to choose from.

“I hope we get stairway to seven here with our seventh trophy and I hope the Steelers do well as well,” said Stacy Bradley, owner of a local Pittsburgh BBQ business.

“Award-winning, falls-right-off-the-bone, 2019 best ribs right here. So come and get the best stuff,” said Adam Reighley, the owner of Fine Smoke BBQ in Columbus, Ohio.

All the businesses want to win best ribs of the year.

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“They are serious about it. They all hide their recipes, they hide how they cook, very protective of their little kitchens. It’s a lot of fun,” Wodarek said.

Wodarek suggests you come hungry and hit as many vendors as you can. Some offer samples.

“Come on down here and get some good ribs. I got ribs, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, come down, and get while it’s good,” said Chuck Smith, who works for Off the Bone BBQ from Mobile, Alabama.

So what’s the secret to the best ribs?

“It’s time and love, so you need to have a good cook, good crew, good love,” Reighley said.

Attendees can also enjoy live music and games. There are some new things on the schedule like street parties.

“We added street parties that are going to happen on Monday and Sunday out here with DJs on the street. Those DJs are going to bring the party. We also added BBQ and Blues Monday, which will feature best blues bands,” Wodarek said.

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He said a board of celebrity personalities will do the judging for best ribs. Rib lovers can vote for their favorite by text message this year.

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