Barbecued ribs are the messiest food to eat, yet everyone loves to dig in – especially when it’s summer and the sizzlers are paired with a nice cold drink.
For anyone who enjoys eating outdoors, the inaugural St. Albert Rotary RibFest is coming none too soon. Running from Friday, Aug. 2 to Monday, Aug. 5 at Lions Park, a grassy area best known for its family friendly fire pits and playground area, it is a major fundraiser for the local Rotary club.
“This is an amazing opportunity for our club to get involved in the community and we’re bringing in amazing teams of barbecue performers, “ said St. Albert president-elect Mark Dixon.
“RibFest is not a unique event, but it has been successful in other communities. The response we’ve had is incredible. Not only is it a great event, but ribs are phenomenal.”
Based on past RibFests in other communities, various individuals interviewed for this article estimate 5,000 to 20,000 foodies could walk through the gate.
“This is our first time and we’re not quite sure what to expect. But we wanted to have beer gardens, vendors, live music and a kids' zone. We also have local food trucks and we’ll be selling raffle tickets,” Dixon said.
For Rotary, partnering with professional rib teams was a no-brainer.
“We’ve done some conservative number-crunching and we estimate we can make $20,000. I hope once we get established and learn a bunch of things and attract new sponsors, we can grow and grow. This will allow us to support more causes in a big way,” Dixon said.
The four-day event is structured around five rib teams – Billy’s BBQ (Michigan), Bucky’s BBQ (Ohio), Blazin’ BBQ (California), Pistol Pete (Oklahoma) and Texas Rangers (Motley). They are on a 20-stop tour across Canada from mid-September to Labour Day partnering with charities and service groups to raise funds.
The teams, averaging 10 ribbers apiece, are set up to serve southern-style smoked grilled meats. To cater to the seemingly never-ending lineups, each team brings two 10-foot long grills.
In addition to serving pork and beef ribs, their 50-foot self-contained trailer will be packed with ingredients to grill chicken, pulled pork, sausage and basically everything smoked.
As well as cooking for the expected thousands and to keep things fun, the rib teams compete head-to-head in a cook-off for a trophy and bragging rights. Hoping to snag the championship title, the ribbers concoct their own secret sauces and rubs.
“Some have a smoky sauce or sweet sauce or a spicy sauce. And there are the woods. Some may prefer hickory or oak, apple or cherry,” said pit master Andrew Reinhardt owner of Billy’s BBQ and a champ many times over.
Dixon adds, “The competition is more like a circus than a barbecue. These guys are real showmen. To compete they really have to have their game on. And they turn it into a fun event.”
Dixon hopes to rope in Mayor Cathy Heron, Gazette publisher Brian Bachynski and Jennifer McCurdy, president of the Chamber of Commerce, to judge the competing teams.
Accompanying the meats are freshly made southern cornbread, baked beans, and coleslaw. Reinhardt said the crew is also offering Tater King’s blooming onion. The dish is made from a large onion cut to resemble a flower. It is battered, deep-fried and served as an appetizer or accompaniment.
Menu prices range from $10 for a small single serving to a family package of $60 that includes all the trimmings. A full rack of ribs goes for $26.
Recognizing diverse tastes, Rotary is coordinating various food trucks: New Delhi East Indian food, La Chula’s Latin dishes, Da Vinci Ice Cream, Calgary Mini Donuts, Alabama Lemonade and Cotton Candy Shoppe.
Foodies looking to quench their thirst can drop by Lions Park pavilion which will be temporarily converted into an 18-plus beer garden. An additional beer tent will be set up to ease the anticipated overflow.
St. Albert Rotary also turned to Visionary Centre for the Performing Arts to attract local entertainers performing live music. Martha Livingstone, co-owner of Visionary Centre programmed the main stage concerts with a roster of diverse music.
Friday brings out the country and classic rock vibe whereas Saturday is a party night with popular Top 40 hits, covers and dance music. Sunday morning highlights classical music, jazz and musical theatre while the evening delivers a more energetic party mix. Monday instead spotlights country solos and bands.
Livingstone also programmed a Kids Zone stage that operates at restricted hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. She’s brought in princess and superhero site artists, a craft tent, bouncy castle and face painting.
Bartha Hartman, a favourite at St. Albert Farmers’ Market, shows up as the Human Jukebox and Livingstone has created a 30-minute musical show titled Martha Messmaker’s Messy Birthday.
There are numerous activities planned. But to make the event a success, Rotary is still in need of volunteers as bartenders, bar support, environmental cleanup and various other positions. Shifts are three hours and volunteers receive a RibFest T-shirt sporting a logo.
The St. Albert Rotary RibFest operates Friday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free.
RibFest Mainstage Entertainment Schedule
Friday, Aug. 2
11 a.m. Robyn Cisek
11:30 a.m. Jordon Ho
11:45 a.m. Baby Boy Blue
12:30 p.m. Samantha Wiltzen
1 p.m. Hannah Adamson
5:15 p.m. Samantha Wiltzen
5:30 p.m. Rebecca Lappa
6:45 p.m. Justin Hogg band
8:30 p.m. Coaster 44
Saturday, Aug. 3
11 a.m. Hannah Adamson
12 p.m. Taylor Hambly
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Youth Showcase
5 p.m. The Melisizwe Brothers
6:10 p.m. Baby Boy Blue Band
7:30 p.m. Klusterfunk
8:45 p.m. Thursdays
Sunday, Aug. 4
11:30 a.m. Daphne Charrois
12:15 p.m. St. Albert Chamber Music Society
1 p.m. Jenna Poirier
5 p.m. The Oddibles
7 p.m. Baby Boy and the Earthly Delights
8:30 p.m. Robyn Cisek
9 p.m. Thursdays
Monday, Aug. 5
11 a.m. Matthew Baba
11:30 a.m. Tea G
12:15 p.m. Sara Sheydwasser
5 p.m. Jake Perry Band
6:45 p.m. Samantha Wiltzen
7:30 p.m. Hailey Benedict Band