20,000 take in 8th Annual Orangeville Rotary Ribfest

July 20, 2017   ·   0 Comments

The 8th Annual Orangeville Rotary Ribfest took over Alder Street this past weekend. The event recorded mpre than 20,000 visitors over the course of the three days.

By Mike Pickford

You can put it in the books. Another Orangeville Rotary Ribfest has come and gone and organizers couldn’t be happier with how their eighth annual event unfolded this past weekend.

Threatening weather on two of the three days did little to deter visitors, with people traveling from all across the GTA to indulge their musical and rib-eating needs. An official attendance of 20,708 falls slightly short of last year’s record-breaking total, but does set the bar moving forward with Ribfest now firmly established as one of Orangeville’s premier summertime extravaganzas.

A group of 138 volunteers, assisted by the Orangeville Jr. B Northmen, transformed the soccer fields behind Alder Recreation Centre into a bustling square jam-packed full of family-fun festivities. With a midway and several small shopping vendors lined up inside, there was plenty for people to do while wandering around.

“We came out because we heard the Campfire Poets were playing, and my husband absolutely loves them,” said Shireen Colley, who travelled up from Whitby with her family of six. “When we got here we couldn’t believe how much there was to do! The kids had a blast on all the rides and we had a couple of bears made up for our two little girls. Our oldest got himself a soccer jersey too – we all had a great time.”

The Poets played an uninterrupted three-hour set on Saturday, taking the stage shortly after local blues artist Larry Kurtz. Several other Dufferin-area bands and soloists performed on Friday and Saturday, while country was the theme of the day Sunday. The Jay Kipps Band, Chadley Chase and Dufferin County Line braved the weather on Sunday, with sporadic rain showers sprinkling down from the skies for much of the afternoon.

Sunday also saw the crowning of Orangeville’s best 2017 ribbers. Six award-winning specialists set up shop at Ribfest this year – Billy Bones BBQ, Boss Hogs, Brickyard BBQ, Crazy Canuck Smokers, Hawgs Gone Wild and Gator BBQ – and two  were singled out by a panel of eight local celebrity judges for special recognition. Billy Bones BBQ were presented with the Judges’ Choice Best Ribs award, while Gator BBQ secured top spot for Best Sauce. Boss Hogs ran out as the winner in the People’s Choice Award.

“It’s always a good time coming out to Orangeville,” a representative from Boss Hogs said. “We’ve been here a few times before and we’ve always been pretty well received. It’s awesome to come away with the People’s Choice Award – that’s definitely the one you want the most.”

It appeared to be a unanimous choice too. In speaking to more than 40 people over the course of the weekend, over three-quarters said Boss Hog was their favourite rib vendor.

“It’s pretty close, but Boss Hog takes the win in my book,” said Shelburne resident Jonathan Sinclair. “I’ve tried five of the six ribbers here today and Boss Hogs gave me the best bang for my buck. Talk about fall-off-the-bone!”

Siblings Jessica and Amanda McManaman, from Brampton, readily admitted they argue about most things but were in agreement regarding which was their favourite rib.

“We each went to a different (ribber) so that we could try a couple of different ones but as soon as we got back to our table we both found ourselves eating the ones from Boss Hogs,” Jessica said.

“Yeah… She stole all of my ribs!” Amanda finished.

Having had a few days to reflect on what was another hugely successful Ribfest, Orangeville Rotary Club President Scott Hughes said he was “delighted” with the final attendance, specifically on the Saturday as bright sunshine ensured the site remained close to its 5,000-person capacity for much of the evening.

“It was yet another amazing Ribfest. I was helping run the cash at the beer ticket tent – I took a drink break at around 5:30 and then didn’t get a chance to take another until after 9 p.m. We were so darn busy. Saturday night was fabulous,” Mr. Hughes said.

Orangeville Mayor Jeremy Williams was a busy man over the course of the weekend. He helped officially launch the event by participating in its opening ceremonies on the Friday and was one of the celebrity judges in Saturday’s rib-tasting. When speaking to the Citizen on Monday, Mayor Williams said he was blown away once again by what the Rotary Club had managed to put together this year.

“Ribfest, while only in its eighth year, has quickly become a staple of the Orangeville community. Whenever you think summer in Orangeville, you think Blues and Jazz Festival and you think Ribfest… To draw 20,000 people out over the course of three days is fantastic, even more so when considering the weather,” Mayor Williams said. “I think it’s pretty clear to see that Ribfest is now becoming that destination event we all thought it could be.”

While it’s probably safe to say that the event raked in tens of thousands of dollars once again this year – 2016’s event drew $82,000 – official numbers won’t be released until later this year. Rotary Ribfest chair Charles McCabe did however offer a slight insight regarding where potential profits will be spent over the next year.

“We won’t know what the final number will be for net funds raised for a while because we will be receiving invoices throughout the summer but we are looking forward to supporting parks, youth and vocational and social service oriented projects in the coming year,” Mr. McCabe noted in a release to media.

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