Rotary Ribfest raises more than $20,000 in drive-thru format

July 24, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

Connoisseurs of barbecued ribs slathered in tangy sauce weren’t disappointed after all this year when the Rotary Club of Orangeville went to Plan B to hold their annual RibFest.

The festival was originally cancelled for this year after restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic made planning the event next to impossible.

The annual Orangeville RibFest is usually held on the grounds behind the Alder Street arena and hosts six professional ribbers, a main stage with live music, vendors, and carnival.

The cancellation was a disappointment for both the public and for the Rotary Club that relies on the RibFest as main fundraiser for its projects.

The Rotary Club has raised funds for such local projects as the Fendley Park splashpad, a new natural playground at the Island Lake Conservation Area, and supporting programs at local elementary schools.

After giving it some thought, Rotary Club members decided they could come up with a way to hold the festival and still maintain social distancing protocols.

The plan called for a drive-through style event so people didn’t even have to get out of of their cars.

They also moved the party to the Headwaters Racquet Club property.

The Racquet Club was eager to help with the plan and the layout of the property at the local fitness facility was perfect for drive-through style service.

“We originally cancelled it due to COVID,” explained Rotarian and past Club president Richard Delongte. “We started thinking ‘what can we do?’ and we came up with the idea of doing a drive-through. We talked to the Health Department and got their approval to do it. Headwaters Racquet Club was really nice about. They have the ideal location with a long driveway and plenty of room. It wouldn’t have worked at the arena. It would have been way too crowded. Also Greenwood Aggregates donated space here as well and they were really good to work with. We had around 250 cars come through on Friday night. We also have a concert going on inside. It’s not open to the public but it’s going to be virtual so it’s on-line. The Camp Fire Poets are performing.”

On the other side of the grille, the ribbers were working over the hot flames and keeping the orders filled.

There were two ribbers this year – Gator Ribs and Billy’s BBQ.

Gator Ribs owner, Matt Smith, said his outfit usually does around 50 barbecues every year at rib festivals across North America.

“This is all brand new to us of course,” said Mr. Smith of the drive-through set up. “We’re just trying to do what we can do in this day and edge. We do about 50 rib fests a year all across North America. We go right out to Vancouver. We were already out there and did the same thing at the fair grounds.”

Mr. Smith said that although ‘everybody loves ribs,’ they also like the party that goes long with a rib fest.

“They like the combination of the ribs, the beer, and the music, so we’re just doing what we can right now and serve the ribs. People probably have a plan. They will take it home and invite some friends over and drink some beer in the back yard and have some barbecue.”

It’s a big job. Mr. Smith has a full size rig to transport the barbecue and related equipment and a full size bus to get his crew from place to place. In total he has 26 trucks and trailers in his operation.

“What’s nice for us is because we only show up at a place once a year, we don’t have to re-create all the time. People want the same thing they got last year. If you do it right, they’ll come back next year.”

The Rotary RibFest got underway on Friday (July 17) night and started up again at noon on Saturday (July 18).

The technique was a little different this year, but everybody got the ribs they like so much and the Rotary Club managed to raise some funds for its valuable projects.

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