Rib lovers hit Amherstburg for seventh straight year


By Ron Giofu


Lovers of ribs – as well as chicken, corn, funnel cakes and other food – found Amherstburg to be the place to be over the weekend.

The Amherstburg Rotary Club’s seventh annual Ribfest took place Friday through Sunday with 11,900 passing through the gate at Centennial Park to eat, shop at the vendor tents and enjoy the entertainment.

Carl Gibb, chair of the Ribfest committee, noted that attendance was down last Friday due primarily the thunderstorm that blew through the area but said things bounced back.

Texas Rangers were one of the four ribbers at the Amherstburg Rotary Club's Ribfest, held July 8-10 at Centennial Park.

Texas Rangers were one of the four ribbers at the Amherstburg Rotary Club’s Ribfest, held July 8-10 at Centennial Park.

“(Saturday) was a fantastic turnout,” said Gibb.

Proceeds raised from Ribfest go towards various Ribfest projects, including supporting the Park House Museum. Gibb said the local club is also trying to get a grant to undertake a program so that more homes in town have working carbon monoxide detectors. Newly-installed Amherstburg Rotary Club president Laura Jurilj said that project would be done in conjunction with Amherstburg Community Services and the Amherstburg Fire Department.

“We are presently deciding on what major project we want to get started on too,” added Gibb.

This was the first event for Jurilj as president and she thanked her predecessor Lena Lazanja for her help and service to the club. She also thanked fellow Rotarians, all the volunteers and the sponsors for allowing the event to continue every year, as well as The House Youth Centre for their assistance.

Ribfest drew 11,900 people to Centennial Park on the weekend. Proceeds benefit Rotary projects.

Ribfest drew 11,900 people to Centennial Park on the weekend. Proceeds benefit Rotary projects.

Wayne Titus, past district governor for Rotary, praised the club and the entire Rotary movement. He said there are 10 clubs within Windsor-Essex County and another 38 in the United States that comprise District 6400.

“Rotary does a lot of good in Amherstburg, Essex County and internationally,” said Titus.

Titus said that Rotary Clubs within the district impact area economies to the tune of $5 million annually.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey also brought thanks, as she was one of the 12 judges who graded the four ribbers’ sauce and ribs.

“I think Rotary is one group in the community that really steps up,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey added there is a “sense of community” in Amherstburg, adding she is not surprised there are ten clubs within Windsor-Essex County helping people in their respective communities.

“That is who we are,” said Ramsey.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, another of the judges, was happy to see another community event in Amherstburg.

The judges grade the ribs and sauce Sunday morning.

The judges grade the ribs and sauce Sunday morning. (Photo courtesy of Hugh Douglas)

“We are so fortunate to have such a successful event in the town of Amherstburg,” said DiCarlo. “Not only does it bring people to our town, but the money raised goes back into our town.”

DiCarlo also thanked the many volunteers and supporters for allowing events like Ribfest to be staged.

“Without you, we wouldn’t be able to put these events on,” he said.

Dinosaur was the judges choice for best sauce and ribs. In the sauce and ribs category, the judges ranked Ribs Royale second and Texas Rangers third in both of them. Ribs Royale had the best ribs and sauce in the people’s choice category with Dinosaur taking second in both categories. Blazin’ BBQ had the third best sauce, according to the people, with Texas Rangers having the third best ribs.

Outgoing Rotary president reflects on term, hopes club grows in future



By Ron Giofu


It started with a visit to a local tea room almost nine years ago and led to four terms as president of the Rotary Club of Amherstburg.

Now, Lena Lazanja is moving out of that role thankful she took it on in the first place.

“It’s been quite the ride,” she said.

Lazanja admits she didn’t know the scope of what Rotary accomplishes both locally and internationally, the latter seeing projects done in third-world countries to improve the quality of life there.

“I’m proud of that,” said Lazanja. “I think that’s the one thing that encourages me to carry on.”

Lazanja originally became president in 2011-12 and remained in that position in the 2012-13 year. She stepped back for one year but the president’s job was hers again in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 years.

Rotary terms start July 1 each year.

“It’s nice to belong to this family,” she said.

Being involved with the Rotary Club of Amherstburg has assisted Lazanja in many ways, Lazanja continued. She was new to town when she joined and it has helped her get to know the community, learn leadership skills and build relationships.


“Rotary has helped me meet new people, it has helped me with employment,” she said. “We’re all volunteers. It’s a wonderful way to come into Amherstburg and become part of the community. I encourage anyone that is new to the community or anyone who wants to give to the community to come to the Ribfest or come to a meeting and see what it’s all about.”

The local Rotary Club has 14 members, she said, and they are always looking for more. She said the Rotary-sponsored Interact Club at General Amherst High School is growing and that could lead to a boost in Rotary membership down the line.

The club has performed a number of activities, projects and events in Amherstburg over the years, perhaps the biggest of which is Ribfest. This year’s event is scheduled for July 8-10 at Centennial Park and Lazanja states “a lot of people don’t understand that it’s a Rotary event.”

Lazanja said one of her biggest accomplishments as president was a smoke alarm initiative done several years ago in conjunction with the Amherstburg Fire Department. She said she wrote the grant and it allowed for door-to-door distribution of smoke detectors in rural areas.

“It was a great accomplishment because it received, at that time, national recognition,” said Lazanja, noting the joint project was written up in a firefighter publication.

That project also received an award from Rotary District 6400, which not only encompasses clubs in this part of Ontario, but stretches into Michigan and Ohio as well.

“I got to ride on a fire truck. Who doesn’t want to ride on a fire truck?” she joked.

Lazanja has also helped with such projects as bicycle rodeos and the Amherstburg Classic golf tournament, the latter that has helped other organizations in the community. One such organization has been the AMA Sportsman’s Association, who also has programming to assist local youth.

The upcoming “Fill a Backpack” event at Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) is another project the Rotary Club has recently been involved with, as they hosted a chicken dinner at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 which attracted over 60 people.

“I was the president and I get to be the face (of the club) a lot of the time but, really, there isn’t anything I could do without the rest of the club,” she said.

In addition to thanking her fellow club members, she also thanked the volunteers that have helped with Rotary events, including the 200-250 that help out at Ribfest.

Lazanja said she will still remain as a member of the Rotary Club but she also plans to get involved with other groups and causes. She wishes incoming Rotary president Laura Jurilj the best and said she is “confident and comfortable in her following in my footsteps. She’ll do a great job, for sure.”

Rotary has enriched her life, she added.

“I’m so glad I stumbled into a tea room and eventually became president of such a wonderful group,” said Lazanja.

Amherstburg Rotary proceeding with Ribfest this July


RibfestBy Ron Giofu


After the cancellation of this year’s Shores of Erie International Wine Festival, there were rumors in the community the Ribfest could be the next to go.

Not so, say organizing committee members.

The Amherstburg Rotary Club will be presenting its sixth annual Ribfest July 3-5 at Centennial Park but the decision to continue in light of the circumstances surrounding the wine festival was something Rotarians took very seriously.

“Our decision to continue wasn’t something we took lightly,” said Rotarian and Ribfest committee member Laura Jurilj. “We all thought about it very long and hard as a committee.”

Carl Gibb, also a Rotarian and Ribfest committee member, said the public is checked as they enter and if they are over 19, they receive a wristband.

“We’re a food festival,” said Gibb. “People come to get ribs. Any alcohol is a secondary item.”

Five ribbers are scheduled to participate this year, the same number that was supposed to take part last year before one ribber cancelled at the last minute due to illness. Gibb noted that other food vendors will include Beaver Tails, the Bloomin’ Onion, ice cream, and corn on the cob.

“It’s definitely growing,” said Jurilj, of the event. “Instead of asking people (to be involved), people are asking us.”

The carnival is returning this year as well and the entertainment lineup is set. Taking the stage July 3 will be British Beat and Liverpool Echo while Exit 31, the Uptown Dixie Land band, Ollie’s Boogie Band, Chucky and the Craw Daddy’s and Destroyer perform July 4. D.J. Morrison & Co. performs July 5.

Gibb said they are anticipating 15,000 people to attend weather permitting as it growing by 2,000 people per year. Proceeds raised go towards maintaining the Park House Museum and other Rotary projects, though Gibb stated they are also trying to save enough money so the festival can be sustainable. He said they are trying to get to the point where they don’t have to borrow money annually to get the festival going.

Volunteers are also being sought to help run the festival.

“The more we have, the easier it is for everyone,” said Gibb.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Jurilj at 519-726-7553 or e-mail laura_george03@hotmail.com. Those interested in sponsoring Ribfest can contact Anne Marie at 519-736-7697 or e-mail annfavot@gmail.com. Anyone interested in becoming a vendor can contact Barb Brookbanks at 519-736-4411. Gibb can also be reached at 519-919-2006.