Cornwall pigs out: Ribfest draws over 50,000

By Adam Brazeau

CORNWALL, Ontario – Records and belt sizes were broken in the second year of Cornwall’s highly-anticipated mouthwatering festival.

In the first day of Ribfest, 27,000 people went through Lamoureux Park to take a bite of tasty ribs and many other savoury meats and delicious treats.

The second day drew in 25,000, over 5,000 from its total first year tally.

They came for ribs, but the three-day event offered free admission and entertainment, plenty of vendors, beer tent and fairgrounds.

Cornwall Seaway Lions Club Ribfest advertising coordinator Colleen Carter is extremely pleased at how far the interest for Ribfest has reached.

“You have to take into perspective that we’re a small city and we pulled in more than the population of Cornwall itself in two days,” said Carter.

The buildup for Ribfest in Cornwall had foodies and non-foodies alike salivating at the thought of a prize-winning rack fresh off the grill. Still, Carter had a media blitz plan that spanned eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

With a limited budget for advertising, Carter pushed the event to a slew of publications whose readership – put together – reached upwards of a million people. That wasn’t all. She made up rack cards and event flyers and personally drove them to marinas, campgrounds, stores, tourism offices and any other highly-visited areas.

“There was a strategy, mapped out by population” said Carter.

To keep up with the high demand for beef and pork, rib vendors, also called ‘ribbers,’ doubled their lineups. The amount of vendors on site also grew, reaching nearly five times the amount as last year.

Part of Ribfest’s not-so-secret recipe for success allowed everyone to check out the event.

“When you bring a festival to a community, you open the doors to potential customers and businesses,” said Carter. “Free admission and free entertainment is part of our success.”

Ribfest not only had generous portions with their ribs, but all the proceeds – minus the cost of operating the festival – go directly into social programs that impact seniors and youth in the community and beyond.

Programs follow a Lions Club mandate and include donations to a juvenile diabetes camp, guide dog training, and ones that provide eyewear and hearing aids to low-income seniors.

Carter still commends Ribfest’s co-founder and Lions Club past-president Phil Shorey as a driven force behind the scenes and grills.

“He’s one of the key people who made this a success,” said Carter.

Putting the praise on Carter, fellow Lions Club members and volunteers, Shorey was just thrilled to see Ribfest grow.

“It’s really impressive,” said Shorey.

When asked, all ribbers answered the same, “Cornwall loves their ribs!”

Even magnetic Jewelry by BlueFront vendor Tom Mansell, from Essex, Ontario never sold like he did at Ribfest.

“I sold more here on Friday, than any other day at a rib festival,” said Mansell.

He has been selling his jewelry at rib festivals for six years and Cornwall’s was his ninth of 2013.

For a group of motorcyclists who had returned from the Bikers Against Brain Cancer ride, the ribs were worth the mess.

“We’re here taste-testing,” said Rhonda Harper, from Cornwall. She voted Ribs Royale as the hands down champ of Ribfest.

Texas Rangers rib vendor Derek Buchanan, 24, hailing from Texas said it’s the best job he’s ever had.

“I get to travel all across America and Canada,” he said. “You can’t beat it.”

Carter knows how much sacrifice goes into planning and orchestrating an event and gave high regards to the Lift-Off festival board and volunteers.

“They did a bang-up job this year,” Carter said.

She was adamant about her own board and volunteers being recognized for their efforts.

“Thank you to all of the board members and volunteers who have given so much of their time and efforts,” said Carter.

Carter is excited to hear the positive feedback and constructive criticism of the community and visitors of the event. She encourages people to visit and leave their comments.

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