The heart of the Rib Fest is a fund raiser - they have raised $4.5 million and are still at it

News 100 yellowBy Staff

September 1st, 2020



They are referred to as service organizations. Lions, Optimists, Rotary – and several others.

They are clubs whose membership gets together to do things for the community they live in. Some are international organizations.

Burlington has four different Rotary clubs.

Twenty five years ago John Thorpe and Bob Penning came up with the idea of bringing a Rib Fest to Burlington. The two had seen several in the United States and thought it might work in Burlington.

The growth of the Rib Fest was phenomenal – there are now Rib Fests across the country – but there is only one CLR – that stands for Canada’s Largest Rib Fest – and large it is.

When Covid-19 knocked everything off the calendar – Thorpe and Pennington kept hoping that the province would open things up in time for them to hold their 25th annual event.
“When we learned that CNE was cancelled we were toast – we had to put away all the hopes” said Thorpe.

These two don’t give up very easily. They came up with the idea of holding a smaller event – made it a Drive-Thru and convinced the people at Burlington Centre to let them use the parking lot for Canada Day.

If you looked around there was still some sitting room. The weather was close to perfect and the music was good - great way to bring a summer to a close.

If you looked around there was still some sitting room. The weather was close to perfect and the music was good – great way to bring a summer to a close – that was in 2017

Close to 3,000 cars later and a lot of cash in hand – they didn’t rest on their laurels – they wondered – could they do it again on Labour Day.

They can and they are going to.

The Rotary promotional people got into gear and everyone had something to say.

The public is invited to stop by the Burlington Centre parking lot, at 777 Guelph Line from 10am to 7pm to experience the fun and flavour of Canada’s Largest Ribfest in a safe, socially-distant way.

Map Sept 2020

Looks like an obstacle course – it’s the only way to get great ribs on Labour Day.

“We are excited to keep our Labour Day tradition of delivering delicious ribs & fantastic entertainment live during these challenging times” says Brent Paszt, a Past President of Rotary Burlington Lakeshore, and Co-Chair of Canada’s Largest Ribfest. “While the event may look different from what we are all used to seeing, you can still expect award-winning BBQ Teams to be on hand serving the ribs, pulled pork, and chicken that guests have come to expect from Ribfest” added Jay Bridle, Canada’s Largest Ribfest Co-Chair.

“Canceling our annual long weekend event that attracts upwards of 175,000 guests was a huge disappointment and really impacted our ability to support those charities and individuals who need it most, now more than ever” says Rotary Burlington Lakeshore President, Jay Thomblison; “Proceeds from this event, along with those generated from our successful inaugural Canada Day Drive-Thru, will enable us to continue that support”.

Rib Fest - Thorpe and Penning

John Thorpe and Bob Penning – brought the Rib Fest to Burlington 24 years ago – this was to be the 25th anniversary.

Guests are asked to enter Burlington Centre from the Fairview Street entrance and to remain in their vehicles for the duration of their visit. Food vendors will take orders and payment (cards preferred) and will deliver each completed order to your vehicle. Gloves and masks will be worn by all staff, vendors, and volunteers.

The four award-winning rib teams in attendance will include Camp 31 BBQ, Billy Bones BBQ, Pistol Pete’s Smokehouse, and Silver Bullet BBQ. There will also be food offerings from East Side Mario’s and Blaze Pizza, Twisted Tomato, Tiny Tom Donuts, and Ontario Corn Roasters, ensuring that there’s something for the entire family. The event will also include live music for guests to enjoy while they wait in the comfort and safety of their vehicles.

Over the course of 24 years, Canada’s Largest Ribfest, a fundraising initiative of Rotary Burlington Lakeshore, has raised over $4.5 million for local, national, and international charities.

Where does all that money go? Rotary has a scholarship program that really helps a lot of graduating high school students get to college or university.

And the community sees a lot of that money work its way into the small organizations that makes Burlington the city it is.

Where money goes

Some of the organizations in Burlington that have received financial support from the Lakeshore Rotary.

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