Rotarians know a good thing when they see one - will hold a repeat of the successful Canada Day Drive Thru Rib Fest on Labour Day

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

August 31st, 2020



How Burlington’s Lakeshore Rotary pivoted when it became obvious that they would not be able to hold their annual Rib Fest event at Spencer Smith Park. is an interesting story.

That pivot was succesfull enough for the very small team that made it happen on Canada Day decide to do it again – a bit differently but the same finger lickin ribs along with the sauce of your choice.

In June it was begining to look like summer was bound to become the summer of no fun with the cancellation of Canada’s Largest Ribfest, the Sound of Music festival, the City of Burlington’s Canada Day celebrations in Spencer Smith Park, as well as countless events, festivals and concerts in nearby cities.

Billy Bones

There were four ribbers at the Canada Day Drive Thru – all winners

Canada’s Largest Ribfest held annually on Labour Day weekend is more than just an event the residents of Burlington look forward to, it is the major fundraiser of Burlington Lakeshore Rotary. The funds raised at CLR (short for Canada’s Largest Ribfest) goes to support so many great causes in Burlington and beyond, the team knew we had to come up with alternative ways to raise money in this COVID world.

Canada’s Largest Ribfest was born 25 years ago out of an idea that Rotarians Bob Peeling and John Thorpe brought to club after visiting a Ribfest in the USA.

From the north

They came from the north –

From the south

They came from the south –

They brought the idea of a Drive-Thru event to the club leadership – in the typical Rotary way the answer was – why not.  Peeling and Thorpe then started working the telephones to make it happen.

They called in every favour they could think of.  Burlington Mall came on side quite quickly – all they wanted was an opportunity for their tenants to be able to stay open.

The team was small.  Thorpe describes it this way:  – Key people on the committee were – no order other than the old guys are at the start – Bob, Paul, and Bill have all been involved from Day 1.

NY downtown

At a glance it could have been mistaken for a downtown New York City traffic jam – there wasn’t a single bump report from the close to 3000 cars that flowed through.

Bob Peeling, John Thorpe, Paul Kadlick, Bill Pittman, Jay Thomblison, Margaret Hayes, Eva Quijano, Karen Matthews and Dean Williams.

Peeling and Thorpe have an almost family relationship with the ribbers.  The only unknown was – will people show up?

People showed up and while the cool breezes off the lake and the smell of ribs being cooked wasn’t in the air the event worked.  It worked so well that the Rotarians are going to do it all over again.

September 7th – small changes in the way traffic will feed into the location – there wasn’t really anything wrong with the way they did things on Canada Day.

Rib Fest - Thorpe and Penning

John Thorpe on the left and Bob Penning on the right. They were the two that brought the idea of a Rib Fest to Burlington at a time when they were not known by many. Decades later it is the event that closes the summer season. These two determined that there would be an event this September as well.

Thorpe explained that ” While it will help replace some of the funds that we would have raised at Canada’s Largest Ribfest, the idea was to also help bring some fun back into summer after months of lockdown, and to help others affected by the shutdowns.

As much as Canada’s Largest Ribfest is an important part of the social fabric of the community, it also has numerous suppliers that have been affected.

By holding a Drive-Thru, we were able to help the Rib Teams and their employees, we were able to help some musicians that haven’t played in a live venue for months, the sound, electric and special event contractors, the sign makers and many others were helped.

Most importantly, we will be able to help local groups that we support from the funds we raised, and we helped create smiles and enjoyment in the 2,688 cars that came through.


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