July 25th, 2024

Rib Fest ready to heat up again in Lethbridge this weekend


By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on June 27, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDjsibbet@lethbridgeherald.com

The trucks are rolling back into town with their barbecues lit and ribs smothered in sauce.

Rib Fest will be setting up at the Lethbridge Exhibition this weekend with music, movies and of course, delicious ribs on offer for those in attendance.

From Dan Berdusco to the Lethbridge Big Band, there are nearly a dozen bands and performers hitting the stage to help bring fun to the Canada Day long weekend.

The event is free to attend, including the live music, but organizers say most products sold will be between $14 and $40, with other options available.

The new venue also provides an opportunity to open the event up with a larger alcohol area, breaking the status quo from previous years. Dennis Nephin with the Western Canada Rib Fest Tour’s partnership and logistics says this will create a better environment, while still remaining family friendly.

“We can actually license the whole area, so now you can get a beer, walk up, get your ribs,” said Nephin. “You’re not forced into a little beer garden.”

This event will not be alone in providing entertainment in and around the exhibition grounds. Paul Kingsmith with Lethbridge and District Exhibition says there should be enough parking for everyone, but the significantly increased traffic may cause some headaches. As a result, he asks residents to have a little patience as the events, including horse relay racing, Canada Day festivities, farmers markets and more, occur this weekend.

While parking and alcohol are surely close to the top of mind for many, the name of the game is meat for this event and there will be no shortage of options for residents.

“There is, I think, one change in the roster for the trucks coming up. This year we’re going to be featuring a truck called Bone Daddy and they are a beef and chicken only truck, so anyone who wants a non-pork option, that’s now going to be there this year,” said Nephin.

But fear not for he says, “the boys are back” and all the familiar favourites will be there as well.

“Billy’s BBQ, Buckeye’s BBQ and Blazin’ BBQ, they’re back again this year.”

For children in attendance who may need to burn off some energy after consuming their share of ribs, there will be a bouncy castle open daily.

Then for anyone wishing to relax after having their fill, the live music will provide a free option. Kelsi McInnes, director of entertainment for the Western Canada Rib Fest Tour, says the stage will have a selection of local artists from various genres to jam out to.

“We really pride ourselves on giving a voice and a stage to our local and regional artists and we have a really great lineup this year.”

She says the artists selected this year are all high-quality, with some talents recognized across the province or even beyond.

“A lot of these performers have accolades from their industry and have been performing, have radio singles out – they’re excellent performers,” said McInnes. “So, we’re really excited to have them on our stage this weekend.”

Organizers say the event will likely reach its busiest peak each day around 5:00 p.m. and will be an even larger success than last year, which saw over 9000 people attend in total.

“It looks like it’s trending in the right way, so if we can get 10,000 to 11,000 people this year, it would be amazing,” said Nephin.

This number is scarcely replicated across western Canada as Nephin says Lethbridge ranks among the most well-visited Rib Fest tour locations.

“It is one of our tier one events,” said Nephin. “Of the 20 stops in the show, I’m going to say Lethbridge was probably in the top two or three (last year).”

He says this large-scale status has resulted in the date change from late-August to the early summer.

“That’s why we’ve made the decision to put (Lethbridge) on Canada Day and try to grow it because we think we could add so much more to it as well.”

While the timing suggests there could be a big Canada Day celebration to round out Rib Fest, McInnes says they’ve left those events to the City of Lethbridge.

“Being a good neighbour, we really didn’t want to step on the toes of the events that the City has planned,” said McInnes. “We have planned all of our major events in the days leading up to Canada Day.”

Rounding out the event is the Big Rib competition, where all the trucks will compete for the title of greatest ribs and best sauce. Judges will be given ribs without knowing which truck its from prior to ranking them.

The event takes place all weekend, from Friday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day aside from Canada Day, when the festivities early end at 7 p.m.

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