CELEBRATING 22 YEARS
CELEBRATING 22 YEARS
Originally called the Burlington Ribfest, Canada’s Largest Ribfest began in 1996 when Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore members, John Thorpe and Bob Peeling were assigned with the task of creating a new fundraising event. Rotary Clubs are groups of people within a specific area that get together to provide humanitarian services to their community. Therefore the Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore was looking to raise money to assist charities, programs and services in Burlington. John, who is heavily involved in the cycling community, had heard of a race in Ohio called the Ribfest Race, where their finish line of the cycling event had a big barbeque party, the Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest. Bob and John visited the race in 1995 and thought it’d make a great fundraiser for their Club, especially since it was a unique concept at the time.
The Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore launched the event at Spencer Smith Park over a weekend in mid-September to tie into an Art Gallery of Burlington event. It moved to Labour Day weekend in its second year, becoming a four day event, and has since become known as the end of summer celebration for the people of Burlington and surrounding areas.
Canada’s Largest Ribfest was a success even in its first year. Despite raining almost the entire weekend, there was a steady line up of people waiting for their authentic southern barbeque experience. There were only six ribbers, compared to the 19 ribbers now, four of which came up from the southern States where barbequing events were very common. Two of those ribbers have been participating ever since. There was even a small stage with blues and country performers. The Club based the success of the event specifically on the funds raised and set a three year fundraising goal. If it couldn’t reach the goal they would no longer continue the event. Despite only raising $800 in the first year, the Club was ahead of their goal to break even. By the second year, the three year fundraising goal had been met, and 22 years later Canada’s Largest Ribfest has raised $3 million dollars and is still a giant barbeque party.