Barbecues and full stomachs might be on the docket this long weekend as London, Ont.’s annual Ribfest heats up in Victoria Park.
The festival, which runs until Monday, a civic holiday, opened on Thursday with Londoners flocking to the city’s downtown to enjoy some of Ribfest’s summer staples, including rib tasting, live music, rides and more.
This year’s festival marks the second time a full-sized London Ribfest has been held in the park since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Doug Hillier, president of Family Shows Canada, which puts on the London Ribfest, told Global News that out of all the festivals they put on, “this is the one I enjoy the most.”
“The smiles are always so happy,” he said. “Flags are waving, smokers are going, and the showmanship of these ribbers is just something to see.”
Hillier says the festival features 10 of Canada’s top ribbers all competing against one another for the festival’s top prize.
“These guys travel around Canada, and they really enjoy competing in other ribfests. But when they come to London, they love it here the most,” he said. “They’re also very competitive because these guys are really proud of those great big trophies that we hand out. So, the food is very good because I believe the competition makes them stronger.”
Matt Gavin of Boss Hogs, a familiar vendor at Ribfest and among those competing this year, says that “London is our stomping ground.”
“We take a lot of pride in coming here and people’s choice here means more to us than any other show we do,” he said, adding that last year, Boss Hogs went through roughly 225 cases of ribs.
“We’re loud, we’re fun, we make people laugh, and that’s what we want to do,” Gavin said.
Tshihimba Musafiri of Louisiana BBQ, another repeat competitor at Ribfest, said he’s looking forward to another great long weekend in Victoria Park.
“We’ve been here for a couple of years (and) in terms of trophies, we’ve won a few and we’re looking to crush it this year,” he said.
London’s Ribfest began in the late 1980s, when it served as a fundraiser for the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of London. The club, which initially organized the event, ended its involvement with the festival in 2008. Hillier and Family Shows Canada took over shortly after.
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He says they’re always looking to add new things to the festival every year, and 2023 is no exception.
“We now have halal ribs because we never want to exclude anyone from coming to the park,” he said. “We also have a second stage in the park, just as many bands and a wonderful collection of music in the middle of the park, doubling the amount of entertainment we had.”
For incoming barbecue fans, a craft beer festival within Ribfest will see local and regional breweries and beverage makers handing out refreshments as well.
Londoner Dana Harper told Global News that she’s been coming to Ribfest every year, sometimes multiple times during the festival.
“I usually come on the first day and then usually on the weekend,” she said. “I just love ribs and this is always really fun.”
More information can be found on the London Ribfest website.
– with files from Global News’ Marshall Healey, Matthew Trevithick, Devon Peacock and Mike Stubbs.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.