Wednesday, 5 August 2009



Do you smell it? ... I'm talking about that wood smoke smell.... the smell of cooking pork... the smell of bbq sauce... it can only mean one thing... RIBFEST!!!" Ricky P.

The London Ribfest had some ups and downs this year, from the announcement that the Boys & Girls Club would not be running it, possibly cancelling the entire event, to Festivals Ontario picking it up again. Some people had concerns about a private company running it (including some members of London City Council), but I think anyone who attended can say that the quality of the event was better than ever.

Not only were all the regular ribbers there, but the festival expanded the alternative foods available, vendors, bands and entertainment around the park.

Every year I get excited - not just about the ribs and the festivities, but also because I get to hang out with my good friends that I have known since high school. This year, I was also excited because Doug Hillier, the organizer of the event this year, invited me to be a judge for the Ribfest Competition. I was so excited, I even had a t-shirt made up to help expose the blog!

The view of the event didn't appear to change much: rib row was still there, the beer tents etc. Because of my long commute from Ottawa, I didn't get to experience several days of Ribfest this year, but the crowds were as big as ever when I was walking around.

Noticeable changes were a lot more food and shopping vendors around the park. A home show was incorporated, but it didn't dominate at all the mood of ribs and food.

I don't know if there were more tables and chairs this year, but they did add "Standing Stations" or barrels with flat wooden tops where you could at least eat your ribs on a flat surface.

Eco stations were back for recycling, which was introduced last year. However, I don't think they had the metal plates and cutlery that you could return to reduce waste.

Festivals Ontario also rolled out a new icon this year, and I like it. Ribfest on flames is a great image, and I saw it all over London (way more advertising this year). At 3 in the morning on the 401, LJ & I even saw it on a limo driving towards London!

11 rib vendors in total were competing for top honours (and sales). This year's competitors were:

  • Crazy Canuck Ribs

  • Tony Roma's Ribs

  • Kentucky Smokehouse

  • Boss Hogg BBQ

  • Texas Rangers Ribs

  • Jack the Ribber

  • Fire Island New York

  • Gator BBQ

  • Pistol Pete's

  • Ribs Royale

  • Blazin BBQ

The smoke wafted throughout the park. I cannot describe in mere words what roasted pork ribs and bbq sauce can do for the soul. Even when I was full, the smell was both inviting and stirred the waters in my mouth.

There were some pricing changes this year. Tickets were no longer sold and Rib vendors charged on their own. I think I prefer the ticket method, but it did mean one less line for people to stand in.

After having been to the Ottawa Ribfest just a month before, the vendors were certainly less animated in the Forrest City. I didn't hear any chanting to singing. But on the whole, London Ribfest is much larger and impressive.

The park was also filled with so many rib-alternatives:

Homemade corn dogs, fresh squeezed lemonade, candy station, pub grub, gyros/falafels, chicken, roasted corn, Indian pulled pork, Thai food, pizza, elephant ears, burgers, fry wagons and more. There was something for everyone.

I wish I had more time at the event. It felt rushed, but that was due to my own schedualling. Fun with friends and food always makes for a great combination.

I've broken this year's Ribfest into 3 parts on the blog to explore:

  1. Ribfest Backyard Rib BBQ
  2. Rib Judging
  3. Chicken Wing Judging

BEST RIB: Pistol Pete's
2nd Best Ribs: Tony Romas

BEST SAUCE: Pistol Pete's
2nd Best Sauce: Fire Island NY

BEST CHICKEN WINGS: Friday Knight Lights

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