Esquimalt Ribfest a full-meal deal at Bullen Park

What: Esquimalt Ribfest featuring Odds, Shaun Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason, Bill Johnson Blues Band, Jason Buie, Groove Kitchen and more
When: Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Bullen Park, Esquimalt
Admission: Free (food is cash-only)


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"It helps to be crazy.”

That’s how the website for the Esquimalt Ribfest breaks down its definition of a “ribber,” the nom de chef of the barbecue specialists who inhabit the popular Esquimalt event.

Ribs, it appears, are very serious business.

“They take a tremendous amount of pride in their product,” said Tom Woods, who chairs the Esquimalt Ribfest Committee.

“When they announce the people’s choice award at these things, that’s huge. They work so hard for it.”

Ribfest heads into its third year Friday with high expectations. During its inaugural edition, the event drew 15,000 attendees. Last year, organizers saw 28,000 music and food fans on site during the three-day run.

Woods said the team behind Ribfest is prepared for the rush this weekend. From a popular kids’ zone and bubble soccer to a car show, there will be plenty on the menu besides food.

Biggest of all are the musical offerings. From rock favourites Odds and Shaun Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason to blues bands led by Bill Johnson and Jason Buie, in addition to a dozen others, music plays a big role at Ribfest, Woods said.

“The most pleasant surprise for me is seeing the calibre of people happy to play at this event.”

Ribfest is a fundraiser for the Esquimalt Firefighters Charitable Foundation, which disperses net proceeds to youth-related organizations.

“That’s the beauty. Except for our overhead, which we have to pay, all the revenue goes right back into the community,” Woods said.

Five barbecue companies — Prairie Smoke & Spice BBQ (Saskatchewan), Misty Mountain BBQ (Alberta), Gator BBQ and Boss Hog’s BBQ (Ontario) and Smoke and Bones (B.C.) — will compete for top honours throughout the weekend. The competition has been fierce in years past, Woods said.

“It’s not a barbecue for them — it’s a show. When they set up all their equipment, it looks like a circus. They want the product and the experience to be exceptional.”

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