CORNWALL, Ontario – At their meeting on Monday, June 22, Cornwall City Council rejected the Optimists Club’s plan to hold a modified Ribfest this year in the Cornwall Civic Complex parking lot.
The Optimists Club had planned to hold a drive-thru version of their event in the east parking lot of the Complex from July 24 to 26.
“I support the Optimists Club and all they do for the community, but tonight I have to speak for our local restaurants,” said Councillor Maurice Dupelle. “I don’t think we can do this to our restaurants who are just starting to re-open. I think we have to ask ourselves if it isn’t time for them to postpone Ribfest like every other event that has been postponed.”
Dupelle also had concerns about enforcing social distancing at the drive-thru event.
“When I grew up the old adage was protecting your own first and everyone else second,” said Councillor Dean Hollingsworth. “My opinion is we must support our local community. I know it looks like we are putting a wet blanket on this one, but it is a little different this year.”
When asked Jamie Fawthrop, Director of Parks and Recreation in the City of Cornwall said that he believed that all of the Ribfest vendors were from out of town.
Councillor Carilyne Hébert countered that it had also been a tough year for non-profit organizations as well.
“It has also been a tremendously terrible year for any non-profit or service agency,” said Councillor Hébert. “I 100 per cent agree we need to be supporting our local businesses as much as possible. I do not want to turn down an opportunity for an organization to raise funds. They have come up with a creative plan. They do a lot of behind the scenes work that we don’t realize. They are supporting a lot of people in need. I would hate to see one of their biggest fundraisers disappear, because then they might disappear.”
Mayor Bernadette Clement agreed with Councillor Hébert’s assertions.
“I understand the comments made by Councillor Dupelle, but I don’t think this is a zero sum game here. I think there is a lot going on and I think people need more, not less,” she said.
Ultimately, Council voted against allowing the Optimists Club for using the east Civic Complex Parking lot for Ribfest.
In the plan submitted to Council, the Optimists Club, they had also planned for a live concert in the Civic Complex Salons and broadcasted on YourTV.
For its part, Cornwall Administration stated to Council that they had no objections to the Optimists Club’s plan, which had already received approval from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU).
“I am extremely disappointed in the decision,” said Muir of the Cornwall Optimists Club. “There are many purchases locally for the event such as advertising, propane, wood, motel rooms, purchases by the vendors, etc. This will cause us to shut down many of our programs that assist families in need.”