When the new wing of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital is completed, members of the Rotary clubs of Burlington should take a collective bow.
By that time $1 million, partial proceeds from the Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore’s annual Ribfest, will have been turned over to the hospital. The latest cheque for $250,000 will be delivered this year after more than 150,000 people attended the successful event on Labour Day weekend. Mayor Rick Goldring tipped his hat to the Lakeshore Rotarians, as well as volunteers from the Burlington Rotary Club North, Rotary Club of Burlington and Rotary Club of Burlington Central, who also volunteered their services. “My experience as a Rotarian has been very influential in my life and I encourage everyone to get involved in some way,” he said. “Service clubs of all types are always looking for new members. Involvement in one of these organizations is a wonderful way to give back to your community.” The rest of the proceeds of this year’s Ribfest will be distributed as follows: $50,000 to area food banks $30,000 to Rotary scholarships $25,000 to scholarships for high school students in Kenya $15,000 to after-school programs $10,000 to Community Living Burlington $5,000 to The Compassion Society $5,000 for medical devices such as refitting homes for accessibility Money also will be donated to Polio Plus, a program aimed at eliminating the disease around the world, and to refurbish fire trucks so that they can be used in remote communities in Northern Ontario. Rotarian Bob Peeling, who has headed the organization of all 18 Ribfests with the help of club member John Thorpe, said the efforts of about 500 volunteers make it work. “We could not do it without them,” he said.
The Ribfest started on a small scale in 1996, making $800. But over the 18 years it has been running, it has raised $2.6 million. The Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore spearheaded the drive to build the Carpenter Hospice and all four clubs in Burlington came together to pay for the Rotary Pond in Spencer Smith Park. There are more than 50 ribfest events in Ontario every year “We’ve got to keep the quality up because we want to maintain the name of Canada’s largest Ribfest,” Peeling said. Judges and patrons vote on which of the 18 locations makes the best ribs and trophies are awarded to the winners. This year contestants came from as far away as New Mexico, Texas and Tennessee. One of this year’s judges was Burlingtonian Dave Bedford, who is Senior Vice-President, Business Operations for the Toronto Argonauts. Last year, he arranged for Burlington rib barbecuers to cook during Grey Cup Festival Week in Toronto. “We were told by one ribber that earning the bragging rights is worth about $25,000 in publicity,” Peeling said. However Tex Robert, who bills himself as ‘Grampa Kentucky’ at the Kentucky Smokehouse, said he gets the most satisfaction out of meeting the people. “When the people stand in line for half-an-hour, then come up to you afterwards and tell you the ribs were great, that’s what counts,” he said. One hundred racks of ribs from the Blazin’ Barbecue stand were transported up to Wellington Square United Church on Friday night for the church’s weekly dinner for the needy. Premier Kathleen Wynne made a special guest appearance on Saturday and took time to barbecue some ribs. Rotarians have been honored by Festival Events Ontario for their recycling programs. There were no garbage cans on site this year. Everything used was recyclable or biodegradable. Fearman’s of Burlington supplied all the ribs for the event and Gyptech was the major recycling sponsor. “Last year we were able to divert 86 per cent of our waste, which meant 50 tonnes of it would have gone to the garbage dump, if we had not,” Peeling said.