Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest draws 13,000 people

By Ron Giofu


Great weather, great music and great food were the reasons organizers of the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest were pleased with last weekend.

The ninth annual Ribfest was held at Centennial Park with four ribbers, a selection of other food vendors, craft vendors, bouncy castles and a full lineup of entertainment available for the thousands that came through the gates.

When all was said and done, organizers are reporting that 13,000 came to the Ribfest.

“They loved the bands,” said Ribfest committee chair Carl Gibb. “The weather really helped. The weather and the entertainment brings (the people) out. People like coming out and enjoying the ribs.”

Not only do the ribbers travel from outside the area to come to Amherstburg, but Gibb noted many other food and craft vendors do as well.

“The Golden Onion came all the way from Montreal,” said Gibb, noting others came from London, Chatham and the Toronto area.

“They come from all over,” he said.

Gibb believed this was one of the better years for the Ribfest but the location of future years remains up in the air. Meetings still have to occur with the Town of Amherstburg on a future location as 15 of the 27 acres of Centennial Park have been sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board for a new public high school.

Anthony Liu from Fat Boys BBQ shows some of the ribs he was barbecuing.

“We’ll have to sit down with them and see,” said Gibb.

Gibb also thanked the crowd for coming out. During brief remarks delivered from the stage Friday night, he told the public “your support of the Ribfest and the Rotary Club is always appreciated. We do this for you.”

Planning, he said, takes up the better part of a year.

Brooke Bratt, Brooke Meloche and Patty Cazabon were three of the people that attended Friday night.

“We love it,” said Bratt. “It’s so much fun. We come every year.”

Between the food, including the blooming onions, and music, Bratt said the Ribfest is “amazing.”

“Go Amherstburg!” she said. “Thank you to Amherstburg for having something like this.”

The ribbers also enjoyed their weekend, including those from Fat Boys BBQ.

“It’s amazing,” said Haley Johnson. “Everyone is so great. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

“Everyone is really friendly,” added Amanda Gallagher. “They are really good tippers.”

Approximately 13,000 came to Centennial Park the weekend of July 6-8 for the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. It is expected to be the last year at Centennial Park.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo thanked the Rotary Club of Amherstburg and its Ribfest committee for “putting on a successful event this year.”

“It should not be a secret that this is a very important part of Amherstburg’s festival lineup,” said DiCarlo. “I couldn’t think of Amherstburg’s summer festival season without the Ribfest.”

Rotary Club president Joan Donaldson also thanked the Ribfest committee as well as all the judges that tasted the sauces and ribs Sunday afternoon. Donaldson said Rotary is an international organization that is a leader in its community, with one of its goals being the eradication of polio.

Buck Twenty was the headliner Friday night at the Ribfest. An entertainment committee led by Rick Rock and John D’Alimonte kept the music flowing for the three-day festival.

Winners from Ribfest saw Dinosaur BBQ Pit win in the best ribs category as ranked by the judges, with Ribs Royale coming in second and Texas Rangers third. The judges’ best sauce awards saw Dinosaur win first place followed by Ribs Royale and Fat Boys Barbecue. The People’s Choice award for sauce saw Dinosaur win again, with the public also agreeing with the judges by ranking Ribs Royale and Fat Boys second and third.

Ribs Royale were the people’s choice for best ribs, followed by Dinosaur and Fat Boys.

To see more photos from the ninth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest, view our Facebook album.

Rotary Ribfest has requests approved, looking for 2019 location


By Ron Giofu


The 9th annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest is returning to Centennial Park July 6-8, and the town is offering some help to organizers in presenting it.

However, the Ribfest committee is seeking additional help from the town in securing a location for next year’s event.

Carl Gibb and Laura George, both members of the Rotary Ribfest committee, appeared before town council and had the first two of their requests granted. Town council agreed to waive the fees for use of the park and also will allow them to use nine sign posts for 28 days prior to the event instead of 14 days, as stated in the town’s sign bylaw.

The latter was a point of concern for Councillor Joan Courtney, who worried the town would be setting a precedent. She suggested three weeks prior to the event instead of four, but the Ribfest committee members said they had four weeks for the sign posts last year.

Gibb said they have been looking for a 2019 location, as this year will be the final year at Centennial Park due to a portion of it being sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board for a new public high school. Gibb said they need approximately four acres and have yet to come across a suitable site.

“Council has to decide whether they want it or not,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer suggested the Libro Centre, stating there is room for festivals there, but Gibb said part of the attraction of Centennial Park is it has fencing. Fencing costs rise three times if it is moved to any other site, he said.

CAO John Miceli said the fencing and track will be removed from Centennial Park as condition of sale with the Greater Essex County District School Board. He said he will work with Gibb and the committee to try and find a suitable location. He added there are 178 acres at the Libro Centre that can still be developed.

Numerous local events, festivals and sites of for TWEPI “Best of Windsor-Essex” awards



By Ron Giofu


A number of Amherstburg sites, events and businesses have been nominated for Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) awards but they need the support of the public to win them.

The Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest has been nominated in the “Best Local Festival – Food & Drink” category but people have to vote for them online at www.bestofwindsoressex.ca.

The Ribfest is in its ninth year and committee chair Carl Gibb said the idea originated from current Rotary Club president Dan Hunt. As many as 15,000 people have attended in some years with the hope this year being for 20,000 people.

“It feels good to be recognized,” said committee member Laura George.

George said the Ribfest is evidence that good things happen when people work together. She added the

Gibb said this year’s festival, planned for July 6-8, will see the committee “ramping up the food choices and entertainment level.” Proceeds from the Ribfest will be put towards “a major project for the town.”

Over 150 volunteers are needed annually for Ribfest. Those interested in volunteering for this year’s Ribfest can contact George at 519-982-2684.

The Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest is one of the Amherstburg-related business, festivals, sites or organizations up for a “Best of Windsor-Essex” award.

Other nominees include a former winner in the Gibson Gallery. The Gibson Gallery is nominated in the favourite art gallery or art space category. Art by the River is nominated in the Best Local Festival – Arts category. In the Best Local Festival – Community Holiday Event category, the River Lights Winter Festival is one of the nominees.

There are two Amherstburg nominees in the Best Museum/Heritage Space category. The Amherstburg Freedom Museum and Fort Malden National Historic Site are up for that award. Fort Malden is also nominated in the Best Local Attraction – Historical category and the Best Photo Op category, with Navy Yard Park also being nominated for the latter.

The Fort Family Fun Centre can be voted for the Best Family Friendly Attraction.

Nominated in the Best Cultural or Heritage District category is the Amherstburg historical district. The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce received a nomination in the Best Shopping District category.

An “Art of the Cocktail” nomination went to Wolfhead Distillery while Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery received a nomination in the Best Local Winery category. Maria’s Restaurant was nominated in the Best Breakfast category while the Best Burger section saw Gilligan’s get a nomination.

Three pizza restaurant chains with Amherstburg locations received nominations in the Best Pizza category, with those including Armando’s, Capri and Naples.

The River Canard Canoeing Company was nominated in the Best On the Water Activity category while the King’s Navy Yard Park received nominations for the Best Picnic Spot and Best Park/Garden awards.

Wildwood Golf & RV Resort and Willowood RV Resort each received nominations for Best Cottage and Best Campground with the latter also having Holiday Beach nominated.

Smashed Apple Gourmet Catering is up for Best Sandwich Shop while the Bondy House is up for Best Bed & Breakfast.

Voting is underway and runs through March 11 at 11:59 p.m. Winners will be announced by TWEPI April 17. People can only vote once per e-mail.

Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest draws over 13,500 people


By Ron Giofu


The eighth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest was held over the weekend with a strong crowd of 13,513 people in attendance.

The three-day event took place in Centennial Park with four ribbers – Ribs Royale, Memphis Blazin’ BBQ, Dinosaur BBQ Pit and Texas Rangers – and a variety of craft vendors, children’s activities and other food and drink vendors participating.

People line up for ribs at the eighth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. The event was July 7-9 at Centennial Park.

People line up for ribs at the eighth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. The event was July 7-9 at Centennial Park.

“Except for Friday night when we had to evacuate everyone for safety reasons (due to a storm), it’s been a great weekend,” said Carl Gibb, an Amherstburg Rotarian and chair of the Rotary’s Ribfest committee. “The support from the community, as always, has been fantastic.”

Gibb noted the variety of food and crafts and “everyone seems happy.”

“Overall, it was a great weekend,” added Amherstburg Rotary Club president Laura George. “The attendees we had came and enjoyed the ribs. We definitely thank everyone for coming out because without them, the Rotary Club and Ribfest committee couldn’t have pulled off this weekend.”

Gibb and George thanked the committee, the volunteers, sponsors and all who participated in the three-day event. They also thanked the town of Amherstburg for waiving the fees to use Centennial Park and the equipment and for relaxing restrictions on the sign bylaw to help them promote the Ribfest.

People line up for ribs at the eighth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. The event was July 7-9 at Centennial Park.

People line up for ribs at the eighth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. The event was July 7-9 at Centennial Park.

“It’s nice to know that, in the end, they know the value of what this festival brings to town and that they know the work of the Rotary Club,” said George.

The Ribfest was up against two other events in the area – including the Fork & Cork in Windsor and the Essex Fun Fest – but the Amherstburg event still managed to draw a strong crowd.

“It says a lot about the town of Amherstburg,” said George.

People line up for ribs at the eighth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. The event was July 7-9 at Centennial Park.

People line up for ribs at the eighth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. The event was July 7-9 at Centennial Park.

George acknowledged the break-in that occurred to the grounds early Saturday morning that saw items stolen from several vendors. She said they are working with the Amherstburg Police Service to resolve the matter and extra security was brought on board for the next night.

Gibb pointed out they put all proceeds back into the Amherstburg community. He noted such Rotary projects as the fully accessible playground at Toddy Jones Park, the Miracle League field at the Libro Centre and the acquisition of 600 carbon monoxide detectors that will go into those in the homes of vulnerable residents. The latter project is in conjunction with Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) and the Amherstburg Fire Department.

The Memphis Blazin’ BBQ was the only ribber that hadn’t been to Amherstburg before but they liked what they saw.

The band Moondog Howlers perform Saturday night at the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest.

The band Moondog Howlers perform Saturday night at the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest.

“I’m loving it,” said Matthew Kershaw, as he prepared ribs Friday night. “This town is awesome.”

Those who attended enjoyed it as well, with people from Windsor-Essex County and beyond coming to Amherstburg.

“It was nice. I enjoyed it,” said Bernadette Kuzniak of Belle River. “The ribs were good and so was the sauce.

Kuzniak attended with her husband Norm and it was their first time to the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest after moving back to the area from Waterloo.

“The music is not too bad,” added Norm.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone sinks  his teeth into some of the ribs during judging held July 9.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone sinks his teeth into some of the ribs during judging held July 9.

Kevin Girard and Kait Fox of Tecumseh also enjoyed themselves.

“We love it,” said Girard. “Our stomachs are full and our fingers are sticky.”
Fox added they were at the Ribfest several years ago and said they plan on coming back.

The Ribfest also drew people from a family reunion, including those from Sugar Grove, Illinois and Jackson, Mississippi.

Arthur Davis, from Jackson, said they stopped in as they were driving back to the United States and wanted to try the Ribfest. Sharon Phillips added they found people in town to be “very friendly” and they gave the experience “two thumbs up.”

“It’s been a beautiful experience,” she said.

Amherstburg police investigate thefts at Ribfest



The Amherstburg Police Service is looking for help after thefts were reported from the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest.

Amherstburg police state that three youths were involved early Saturday morning around 4:30 a.m. One youth allegedly distracted a security guard at the front gate while two more entered the grounds and allegedly stole from two vendors.

Aburg Police Logo Rev-web

One vendor had roughly $300 of merchandise including T-shirts, fidget spinners and other goods taken while about $1,000 in goods was stolen from another tent. The latter saw cell phone items such as cases and cables taken.

The youths, described as white males roughly 14 to 15-years-old, fled on foot and were last seen heading southbound on Fryer St.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Amherstburg Police Service at 519-736-2252 or Crime Stoppers at 519-258-TIPS (8477).