Successful comeback for Tillsonburg Ribfest

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A successful Tillsonburg Ribfest last weekend may have been a win for the town.

Organizers of the Thunder Ribfest had announced last winter that after five years the event was shutting down, mainly for financial reasons. As a fundraiser for Tillsonburg’s senior men’s hockey team, it has put a strain on the team’s ownership and volunteer base, they said.

An idea to revive the Ribfest came in recent weeks as COVID-19 restrictions started to lift. The Thunder proposed a ‘takeout style’ Ribfest that would be limited to three food vendors in the Tillsonburg Community Centre parking lot.

“It’s a good event for the town,” said Kathy Holly on Sunday afternoon.

“We would probably do this again the way it is now,” said Mike Holly, president/owner of the Tillsonburg Thunder senior men’s hockey team.

“We marked it out for COVID distancing and the barriers really worked well. We want to thank the people who came, they were really good about social distancing.”


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“Most people were wearing masks,” said Kathy, “and that was so awesome and really nice to see.”

Attendance was a bit slow to start, but picked up at the dinner hours with barbecue ribs, chicken and pulled pork being served by Silver Bullet Bar-B-Q and Gonzalez BBQ, and fries-and-more from Speedy Fries.

“It was solid and steady,” Kathy nodded, “from like 4-7 p.m.”

“Yesterday (Saturday) at supper time, for two or three hours there were lines into the parking lot,” Mike nodded.

“The weather has been fantastic, it could not have been better.”

Changes are already being considered for the 2021 Ribfest. This year’s takeout-style Ribfest did not have a beer vendor, which saved money on security, fencing and licencing.

“I’m curious what people would think if we continued it as a non-licensed event,” said Mike Holly, hoping to get feedback on the Tillsonburg Ribfest Facebook page.

They would like to change the live music format next year, moving their headliner closer to the busy dinner hours. Or go exclusively with local music talent under the tent.

“Having Dan Dube, Shawn Winters, James Kennedy under the tent… I thought that went very well.”

Holly said they are also considering a donation jar at the entrance area next year.

“To help make sure it comes back the next year.”

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