More than 18,000 people in attendance as Ribfest takes over town

July 25, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

More than 18,000 people passed through the gates at Orangeville Rotary Ribfest this past weekend, making the 10th annual offering one of the most successful in the event’s history. 

Even with extreme heat warnings in effect and threat of thunderstorms looming, locals came out in droves to support what is, arguably, Orangeville’s biggest party of the summer. 

Speaking to the Citizen following the event, Michael Wright, co-chair of the 10th Orangeville Rotary Ribfest, had nothing but positive things to say about what he says was a “special” weekend.

“It was a heck of a lot of fun, I’ll tell you that right now,” Mr. Wright exclaimed. “Considering some of the factors involved, I think it was a very successful weekend. We obviously got hammered with some tremendous heat – unfortunately a lot of people just weren’t able to get out because it was too hot. Then the rain came in late on Saturday, which shut us down a little early. It was probably the first time The Campfire Poets have ever ended a show on time!”

Typically, Saturday is seen as the grand-slam day as far as attendance goes. In recent years, as many as 13,000 people have passed through the gates on that one day alone. Because of the weather, this year saw about 8,400 attend over the course of the day. 

While that could be viewed as a negative, Mr. Wright is choosing to look at it as a positive. 

“Sure, we were down on the Saturday, but Sunday was absolutely packed. We had a great night on the Friday too,” Mr. Wright said. “The big takeaway for me, the highlight of the weekend probably, has to be Kidsfest. It was our first year, we weren’t exactly sure how it was going to go, but it was a huge success. It was incredibly obvious seeing the influx of kids and young people at Ribfest on Sunday. A lot of long-time Rotarians, who have been involved for the entire ten years, said they’d never seen so many kids running around. It just brings a whole new energy to the event.”

Final numbers won’t be confirmed for some time, although Mr. Wright is hoping to come close to last year’s total of around $80,000 raised. The  Rotary club will be meeting in the fall to determine where, and on what, funds raised through this year’s Ribfest will go. 

The Citizen caught up with multiple families over the course of the weekend to find out exactly what Ribfest meant to them.

Jason and Megan Vierman, who braved Saturday’s heatwave to attend alongside their six-year-old son Marcus and four-year-old daughter Maddison, noted Ribfest was the perfect example of an entire community coming together to support a great cause.

“The ribs are great, the entertainment is awesome, but the thing I love most is seeing so many people here. Everyone is always so happy, and there’s just a buzz in the air. It’s such a great event,” Megan said. “Our kids are now getting to the age where they can start enjoying something like this too, and they love it.”

With a smile stretching across his face, Marcus said his favourite thing about Ribfest was getting to order, and eat, his very own strawberry funnel cake. The Viermans noted they’ve made a point of attending Ribfest every year since moving to the community in 2013. 

For Shelburne resident Logan McManus, this was his first exposure to Orangeville Rotary Ribfest. He spent the bulk of his day on site on Saturday, confirming he had purchased ribs from three of the six ribbers on hand by mid-afternoon, but planned to try them all before calling it a day.

“I used to go to Ribfest up in Peterborough when I lived there, and always made a point of trying as many different ribs as I could. With there being six here, I feel like I just have to try them all,” Mr. McManus said. When asked what he planned to do with the copious amounts of leftovers he was sure to have, Logan smiled, stating he planned to “eat like a king” for the next couple of days. 

Alan and Margaret Fairchild came out on Saturday simply to watch Larry Kurtz and The Campfire Poets on the main stage.

“We came to the first Ribfest years ago, then stopped for a while. We came back out again, I think it was four years ago when we found out Larry was playing, and that was when we saw The Campfire Poets for the first time. We’ve been big followers since, and always make a point of coming here for dinner and some music when they’re playing,” Alan said.

When it came to dinner, there didn’t seem to be a bad rib in sight over the course of the weekend. When more than 50 people were asked Saturday which vendor they preferred, each of the six ribbers received at least three votes. The favourite, as far as we could tell, was Camp 31, which ran away with the People’s Choice Award in 2018. 

According to popular vote this year, however, it was actually Silver Bullet BBQ that walked away with the People’s Choice Award. Speaking to the Citizen, Justin Manseau, who travels with Silver Bullet BBQ all over the continent, said he always enjoys coming to Orangeville.

“The people here are always super nice. I’ve been out offering sauce samples most of the day, and everyone usually says hi and takes the time to talk to me. It’s not like that everywhere, let me tell you,” Mr. Manseau said.  “Orangeville is probably up there with my favourite locations, for sure.”

That sentiment was echoed by Sydney, who was working hard cooking and saucing ribs at Hogfather BBQ.

“I love this town and the feel of it. It’s so homely and very friendly,” Sydney said. “The people seem so welcoming.”

On Saturday, a compilation of local judges came together to declare Brickyard BBQ as winner of both Judge’s Choice Best Ribs and Best Sauce. As far as we can tell, this was the first time one ribber had walked away with both of those awards. 

Reflecting on the weekend, Mr. Wright wanted to go on record to offer his appreciation to all of those in the local community who made the 10th annual Orangeville Rotary Ribfest as successful, and fun, as it was. 

“We want to thank everyone from Orangeville, and beyond, who attending Ribfest, especially considering the gruelling heat. It was an incredibly fun event. Sure, our numbers are down, but we certainly see it as a great success,” Mr. Wright said. 

He added, “We’re already starting to think about how we’re going to make a difference again next year.”

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