Ribbing it at the festival

Josh Vanhan with Ribs Royal sports a Transformer helmet and mask as he braves the hot flames that lick their smoked ribs during Ribfest in Thunder Bay in 2016. Ribs Royal will be back again to serve their award winning ribs for this year’s Thunder Bay Ribfest in support of Our Kids Count.

Ribbers are gearing up for the annual Thunder Bay Ribfest this August — with a twist.

The event will feature a drive-thru, takeout system, similar to food services already happening in restaurants in the city.

Gladys Berringer, chairwoman of Thunder Bay Ribfest and retired executive director of Our Kids Count, says they held off on making any announcement in hopes that things would return to normal by August and they would be able to salvage Ribfest for the community. Berringer has worked with John Trevisanutto of Halfway Motors, the presenting sponsor of the event, and MPs Michael Gravelle and Patty Hajdu early in April to navigate the possibility of the event.

“We got a sense that it just wasn’t going to work,” said Berringer. “Even if the restrictions were lifted and we could have an event, people would still be nervous about coming out . . . so we thought we needed to shut it down.”

But she said Our Kids Count needed the money.

“It is the largest fundraiser, so we thought, ‘how could we salvage the event?’”

Berringer says they came up with the drive-thru model because it was one of the first restrictions that was lifted, enabling restaurants to offer takeout food.

“We thought, ‘Why couldn’t we do that?’ So that’s what we came up with,” she said.

Getting approval from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit and the City of Thunder Bay paved the road for the ribbers to come back to the community.

During the event, patrons will find one way in and one way out. They will be greeted by employees of the ribbers who will take their orders. Volunteers with Our Kids Count will also approach the vehicles offering the popular 50/50 tickets. The tickets are also available online with a credit card or etransfer.

Berringer is hoping that vehicles will proceed through the lines more quickly than the traditional line of people on foot from previous years.

“It’s going to go a lot faster because the orders will be going in and by the time they get up to the ribbers, the food will be ready and it will just be handed to them,” she said. “We are not expecting the lines to move slowly.”

People approaching vehicles for food orders, ticket sales, payments and food distribution will all wear masks for protection against the coronavirus.

Local Silver Birch Restaurant will be joined by Ribs Royale and Dinosaur Ribs, both from southern Ontario, to serve up their award winning ribs and sauce. Thunder Bay Ribfest will take place on the CLE grounds from Aug. 27-30, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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