A well-known South Island event is back next month to deliver the ultimate barbeque experience and a finger-licking good time.
Esquimalt Ribfest returns to Bullen Park starting Friday, Sept. 9 to Sept. 11 for a weekend of ribs, entertainment and vendors, plus beer and cider from local craft breweries, according to organizers.
Admission is free for all ages on all three days, with the park gates open from noon until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from noon until 9 p.m. on Sunday.
In an interview with CHEK News, event chair Tom Woods predicts that around 50,000 people will attend this year.
“A lot of those people will come every day, to be honest. They love the fact that it’s no charge to get in and there’s awesome music and cold beer. They come to visit us more than once,” Woods said.
“It’s quite a good crowd.”
From a rack of ribs to beef brisket, festival-goers can indulge in the menus of six different rib teams or “ribbers” while enjoying live performances from over 20 bands set to take the stage.
According to Woods, the teams flock from across the country ready to compete in a rib cook-off while showing off their lengthy lists of awards.
“I’m seeing that this new rib team called the Pit Crew has won a world championship medal in New York pretty recently, so we’re pretty excited,” he said.
Established in 2013, Woods credits Esquimalt Ribfest as a volunteer-run festival and notes that outside of operating costs, all proceeds are funnelled back into the community through local charities.
He says around $1 million has been raised through the years.
“We really break it up, but our main focus is on children’s charities. We try and help out things like the Rainbow Kitchen and Esquimalt High School and Rock Heights and any worthwhile cause that we can find,” Woods explained.
“A big goal of ours is to build a turf field in Esquimalt and we’re working hard with the school district to pave the way for that. We’ve put over $300,000 aside for that and we’re hoping to build that up even more.”
Proceeds also go toward the Esquimalt Firefighters Charitable Foundation and with Woods being a retired firefighter himself, it’s a charity close to his heart.
“They run the gate for us. It’s free to get in and we hope you enjoy yourself and on the way out, you can make a donation,” he said.
“Last year, if you can believe it, we almost got $60,000 in donations just from people saying they had a good time at Ribfest and loved it, so they threw in ten or twenty bucks or five bucks or two bucks. There’s no minimum.”
In light of COVID-19, organizers are setting up sanitation sites around the park and visitors are encouraged to wear face masks, though masks won’t be enforced.
“We’re 100 per cent in favour of all the COVID protocols,” noted Woods, “but whatever the health guidelines are is what we’ll follow to a T.”
Gearing up for the big weekend, Woods describes the festival as “just awesome.”
“Who would have thought wonderful tasting ribs and iced cold beer and free music would be a hit in Esquimalt,” he added with a laugh.