Rack of ages
Inaugural Sydney Ribfest draws thousands
Rain showers didn’t stop a steady flow of Cape Bretoners from waiting in line for one last feed of barbecue as the inaugural Sydney Ribfest wrapped up Sunday.
The three-day event drew thousands of people to the docks of the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, with crowd figures for Friday and Saturday alone representing more than double what organizers had hoped would come out for the entire event.
“The numbers coming through the gate have just been beyond what we had expected. We had expected 10,000 and now we’re over 20,000,” said Sara Burke, vice-president of the host Sydney Sunrise Rotary Club and co-chair of Sydney Ribfest.
And with thousands more streaming in on the final day for food from five of North America’s best rib teams, Burke said Sunday the attendance total for the three days could exceed 25,000.
By late Sunday afternoon, Ribfest officials reported via their Facebook page that all five rib teams had sold out of ribs, while some still had sausage, pulled pork and other items available.
Hosted by the Sydney Sunrise, Sydney, North Sydney and New Waterford Rotary Clubs, Ribfest was promoted as a family event with great food and entertainment for all ages. And the response to the concept was overwhelmingly positive, according to Burke.
“People have been so happy about what’s happening here,” she said. “They’re excited there was something new and that their whole family could come down and every comment we’re getting has been positive.”
North Sydney residents Josh and Valerie Lynch and their three granddaughters, Paula, Emily and Hannah, were among those at Ribfest on Sunday. Josh said he was really enjoying his meal.
“They’re great so far,” he said, noting he made his way to the event for one simple reason. “I love barbecue ribs.”
Approximately 200 volunteers helped make Ribfest a reality, with organizers focused on making sure the site was kept clean and that everything was recycled properly.
Burke said the rib teams were very pleased with their sales, as were local vendors like Jason Mrazek of Sydney-based the Taste Brothers, which gave out samples and sold their sauce and jelly products throughout the weekend.
“We’re darn near sold out,” he said Sunday afternoon. “This weekend has been amazing. The response from our local residents and the exposure has just been fantastic. Everybody seems to love what we’re doing.”
Mrazek said they also received really positive feedback from some of the professional ribbers at the event.
“If things go right we might have a deal with one of them for about 200 gallons of one of our barbecue sauces, our Sweet Carolina, which is mustard-based with our own twist on it,” he said.
Admission to Ribfest was free but donations were accepted at the gate for the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County. A final tally of money raised wasn’t available Sunday but Burke said that people had been very generous at the gate.
And the intent now is to make Sydney Ribfest an annual event.
“We’re about 100 per cent sure it’s coming back,” said Burke.”The ribbers are ready to come, they asked if they can sign their contracts right now for next year. They loved Sydney and they said this is probably one of the best run and organized Ribfests that they do and they do circuits of 40 to 50 a year.”
Ribber Mitchell Russell from the Camp 31 rib team showed the crowd what was in store for them as they waited in line Sunday afternoon at Sydney Ribfest.
North Sydney residents Josh and Valerie Lynch and their three granddaughters, from left, Hannah, Emily and Paula, enjoyed chowing down on barbecue ribs, pulled pork and chicken Sunday afternoon at Sydney Ribfest.
LAURA JEAN GRANT/CAPE
BRETON POST Jason Mrazek of Sydney- based the Taste Brothers talks with Ribfest- goers Sunday afternoon.
Lines at all five ribber stations persisted throughout the day Sunday as Cape Bretoners were eager to get one last dish of barbecue before the Sydney Ribfest came to an end.