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St. Albert Rib Fest returns with a new location, new format

Gone is the drive-thru as Rib Fest relocates to Century Casino parking lot creating a festival atmosphere 
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A master ribber barbecues a rack of beef ribs at the 2023 Rib Fest in St. Albert.

It’s warming up and time to think about chowing down on some finger lickin’ ribs when the Western Canada Rib Fest Tour returns to St. Albert June 7 to 9.

Ribs Unlimited, the management team working in partnership with the Rotary Club of St. Albert, is firing up the grill for the city's 5th annual Rib Fest. Ribs Unlimited has written up a new contract with the Rotary Club and Rib Fest will relocate to Century Casino parking lot.

Rib Fest debuted in 2019 at Lions Park. Once COVID hit, the event pivoted to a drive-thru event at St. Albert Centre’s parking lot on St. Albert Trail.

“Now that COVID is over and we don’t need to use a drive-thru. We hope to create a festival atmosphere at the casino where we will have more space. We’ll be on the southwest corner of the parking lot. It will include four rib trucks, an entertainment stage, a licensed beer tent, and VIP seating in front of the stage. You can reserve a table for eight for $500 per table. That includes eight meals, eight drinks and entry into a draw for a dinner at the casino,” said Doug Campbell, Rotary’s Rib Fest coordinator.

Ribs Unlimited is also in discussion with Rotary to add a series of activities to the family-friendly festival that may include inflatables, face painting, backyard games and a bean bag toss.

Sweet or savoury, tangy or hot, this delicious meat lovers’ event has evolved into a crowd pleaser with professional circuit BBQ masters grilling some of the tastiest racks north of Texas and Louisiana.

Paul Mendonca has 15 years of experience organizing Rib Fests across Canada. As co-owner of Ribs Unlimited, he manages the team’s setup and take-downs during tour seasons.

“These guys are some of the best I’ve worked with,” said Mendonca adding that the most popular rib truck is the one that suits your palette.

Billy’s BBQ truck, as one of the original trucks at St. Albert’s first RibFest, returns again. It’s travelled the circuit across Canada and the United States for three decades winning 250 awards with its legendary secret sauce.

Blazin’ BBQ, as the name implies, turns up the heat with its secret blend of spices. And Bone Daddy’s BBQ cures its own wood, giving each piece of meat a dry-rubbed, polished flavour. Seasoned with papaya extract, the ribs are “sweet and sticky. This year Bone Daddy is only going to serve beef – beef brisket and beef ribs,” Mendoca added.

Lastly, Buckeye BBQ is rooted in the St. Louis tradition where grill masters work the pit. The BBQ sauce is part of America’s Midwest heritage blending sweet with heat.

“If this takes off, we can have it as a standard event for people to enjoy,” said Mendonca.

Rotarians are also hosting a raffle where first prize is a top-of-the-line barbecue along with two secondary meat package prizes. Funds generated are directed to support numerous organizations within the community.

“We support the Ukrainian refugees, the St. Albert Food Bank, SAIF, youth in sports and music, and the Firefighters’ Burn Camp. And we also supported an international vision program in Madagascar,” said Campbell.

He encourages people to bring their lawn chairs to Rib Fest, sit back, eat and enjoy the entertainment.

However, the three-day event still needs volunteers to fill certain time slots. Volunteers receive a free t-shirt, non-alcoholic beverages and entry into a draw for a Century Casino dinner.

Positions needing to be filled are exit monitor, beer garden staff, pop and water sales, pro server, VIP tent cleanup, and photo booth. An online link to all available positions is available at stalbertrotaryclub.com.

Entertainment lineup:

Friday, June 7

• The Party Darts

• Wiesinger

• Paul Woida

• Robin Cisek

• Heaven and the Ghosts

Saturday, June 8

• The Give ‘Em Hell Boys

• Kaeley Jade

• Rockzilla

• The Rural Routes

• Martina Dawn

• Clay Bolen

Sunday, June 9

• DJ all day

• Corn Hole Tournament

• Big Rib Competition


Anna Borowiecki

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