An upscale biffy at Ribfest is part of the VIP tent.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 25th, 2017



They are changing the model – not the menu. And it isn’t a big change but significant nevertheless.

The Rotary decided that since they donate all profits to charities anyway, why not partner up front with meaningful, significant Burlington charities.

Carpenter Hospice holds a special place in the hearts of Rotarians and for most Burlingtonians. So, The Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore chose Carpenter Hospice as it’s organization of choice for this year’s VIP event.

The Rotary Clubs in Burlington were the force behind the original capital campaign to build Carpenter Hospice. Fundraising for the hospice began in 1999 when the four Rotary Clubs of Burlington committed a pledge of $250,000 toward the development of the Hospice, kicking off the Rotary Community Hospice Project.

The legal name of the Hospice remains the Burlington Rotary Community Hospice. Local philanthropist, Len Carpenter, donated $500,000 to the project, earning him the right to choose the name for the hospice which continues to operate as “Carpenter Hospice”.

The Hospice is launching their “Make Room” campaign coinciding with Ribfest. This also brings some more awareness to the good works of the Hospice.

Putting on the biggest chow down in the area and raising big bucks that get plowed back into the community is what the Lakeshore branch of the Rotary operations in Burlington has always been about.

Sixty + strong the Burlington Lakeshore Rotary brought the Ribfest to the city in 1996 – while it was a risk at the time it proved to be the smartest thing they have ever done.

Thorpe Ribfest

John Thorpe

John Thorpe and Bob Peeling were assigned with the task of creating a new fundraising event for the organization in the mid-sixties.

Thorpe, who was heavily involved in the cycling community, had heard of a race in Ohio called the Ribfest Race, where the finish line of the cycling event had a big BBQ party, the Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest.

Ribfest - Peeling

Bob Peeling

Bob and John visited the race in 1995 and thought it’d make a great fundraiser for their Club, 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.

Ribbers Heart of Dixie

Rib fests were a southern American states cultural event. The Lakeshore Rotary imported the idea into Burlington – and it worked.

There was a small stage with blues and country performers at that first event; 22 years later there is a full schedule of entertainment. The Rotary Club set a three year fundraising goal and decided that if they could not reach the goal they would dis-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.

Thorpe and Peeling young

Thorpe and Peeling – a moment to celebrate

Twenty two years later Canada’s Largest Ribfest has raised $3 million dollars and is still a giant barbeque party.
Rotarians understand what change is all about – the membership tends to come from the business community where you change if you want to stay alive.

The VIP tent is located close to the Lake and gives a great sight line to the WORD stage.

The focus for Linda Davies is that Saturday event – where the objective is to raise funds for the Carpenter Hospice. She would like to see a couple of more tables filled.

She had a live one – a company she was pretty sure she could sell a table to – she’s done it before. But there was a problem – the Saturday was the birthday of the wife – who didn’t fancy spending the special day at Ribfest no matter how nice the view. The offer of a big birthday cake didn’t do it.

Ticket price is $150/person or Reserve a Table of 10 for $1,500 Davies wants you to Kick back and relax – enjoy the experience Canada’s Largest Ribfest in the comfort of the Exclusive Carriage Gate VIP Lounge.

In light of The Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore crucial role in the birth of the Hospice, this is a fitting “full circle” connection as they launch their “Make Room” campaign.

Carpenter hospice

Carpenter hospice –

The 14-year-old care facility, for people in the last stages of their life because of a terminal or chronic illness, is getting a new residential wing as well as renovating the existing structure.

Carpenter Hospice is a 10-bedroom facility that offers residential-based palliative care in a home-like setting, and also community-based programs for people dealing with grief or a life-limiting illness.

The $3.7-million project, dubbed Making Room, will be done in two phases.

The first will involve the building of an addition to house the current capacity of 10 residents.

The new room’s amenities will include enhanced access to the outdoors through larger doors, balconies for each room and private space for families.

Rib fest year 1 rain tent

Rained most of the weekend in 1996 when the first Ribfest was held.

The evening (Saturday, September 2nd) is a special “all you can eat” catered Rib Dinner with a selection of award winning Ribs from 3 “best rib” winners. An upscale fancy bar with some signature drinks is provided. One of the real perks for those who have attended Ribfest before are the dedicated VIP executive washrooms. That alone is worth the price of a ticket.  A $90 charitable receipt available.

UntitledEvent proceeds are split between Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore & Carpenter Hospice, You can get tickets on line or touch base with Davies at


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2 comments to An upscale biffy at Ribfest is part of the VIP tent.

  • Yes the flag would be a sensitive issue,especially today, but don’t worry……that picture with the flag is from 1996, the first Ribfest and has not appeared since. Hoping the Lonely Taxpayer saw the bigger point of the story and will come out and buy a table at the Saturday evening charity event to support the Carpenter Hospice.

  • Lonely Taxpayer

    Yikes – Is the Confederate Flag going to be shown at the Ribfest ???

    Someone should jump on this NOW and avert any big issue at the time.