Tucked away in the Waterloo Region of Southwestern Ontario, Kitchener is a beautiful city that embodies its small town roots, while having the attractions and things to do of a major city.
Home to large scale events and festivals, as well as enough activities to fill any vacation, Kitchener is one of Ontario's top getaway destinations. If you're an outdoor enthusiast this is the ideal spot for you. Between the city parks, pools, and community centers, you’ll find the perfect setting for almost any outdoor activity. Kitchner is also a city with a storied history, and there are multiple museums and landmarks to visit including the Doon Heritage Village and Waterloo Region Museum, both of which showcase the history of the area. Art and culture are a big part of the community. From galleries to exhibits, you’ll get to enjoy a variety of art displays like the Homer Watson House and Gallery and Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Being located in the heart of Ontario's Festival Country means you’re also in for some great festival experiences, such as the Downtown Kitchener Ribfest & Craft Beer Show.
Heading into its 13th year, the Downtown Kitchener Ribfest & Craft Beer Show is a family-friendly event with a vibrant and fun atmosphere. They are expecting over 35,000 people in attendance over the three days of the event at this year’s event. While other rib themed celebrations may be common in the region, this event has really set itself apart. Not only will you be treated to some of the best BBQ you can imagine, but you’ll also get the opportunity to sample and enjoy a wide selection of craft beers from some of the top breweries in the area. If you're traveling with the entire family, there will be a kids area packed with games and activities. The event is not just about delicious ribs and beer. It also serves the community by supporting The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. We got the chance to interview Guy Exley, representative for the Downtown Kitchener Ribfest & Craft Beer Show, to talk about the festival.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.
GE: 2016 marks the 13th anniversary of the Downtown Kitchener Ribfest. The event features the best in BBQ, craft beer and live entertainment, all in the beautiful open atmosphere of Victoria Park in downtown Kitchener. BBQ vendors, also known as Ribbers, cook up some of the best ribs, chicken and pulled pork around. There are also 15 other food vendors featuring fresh squeezed lemonade, wood fired pizza, colossal onions, ice cream, Texas tornado potatoes and others. On the beer side, we have 20 craft (micro) breweries, two cider companies and one micro distillery all serving up samples to taste and enjoy. A 4 oz sample of beer only costs $1, allowing attendees to try a variety and discover some new brands to buy. During the event, great local bands play live music and add to the atmosphere and ambience of the event. Our tagline is “Savour The Flavour” and that applies to the BBQ and the beer, the sights, the sounds, the smell and the tastes.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
GE: In 2015, approximately 35,000 people attended over the three days of the festival.
RAL: What is the typical demographic makeup of the event?
GE: The event is for all ages. We do have a kids play area and kids can enter the event if they are accompanied by an adult. The majority of our patrons are between the ages of 25 and 50.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
GE: There are probably 50 “Ribfest” events in Ontario, but this event is the only one of two that combines with a “Craft Beer Festival”. The other is the Kingston Ribfest & Craft Beer Show which I also produce. This offers people a more diverse day and some people come for the food and some for the beer and a lot for both.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event.
GE: The day and environment is very relaxed with no special programming except for the live bands. We do this on purpose, because the goal is to provide an opportunity for people to just relax and enjoy some great food and beer. Victoria Park is very scenic with trees and grass, so it’s a great place to relax and unwind. We do have a kids play area to keep them occupied but otherwise, it’s just a great event to hang out with friends and enjoy all the flavours of food and beer.
The event has always been free to enter. We do ask for a donation to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region in lieu of admission. But, this year for the first time, we are adding in a VIP tent which is ticketed. The VIP package offers people an opportunity to enjoy the event in style.
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
GE: There are a couple of hotels in downtown Kitchener within easy walking distance and several more within 10 or 15 minute drive. They range from B&B’s to full upscale hotels, so there is a lot of choice.
RAL: What does the event mean to the community?
GE: The event is one of the biggest events in the community and drives significant dollars into the local economy.
Besides the dollars, every year we hear from so many people in the community that book thier holidays around Ribfest, and celebrate thier birthdays with us. So, there's an indication of just how much people love and enjoy it.
RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?
GE: The event support The Food Bank of Waterloo Region by asking people to bring a donation in lieu of gate admission. We started this in year five of the event, and since then we have raised $33,152 and 11,360lbs of food.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
GE: The event is based around the experience of great bbq, great beer and great atmosphere. Where else can you try beer from 20 different breweries, eat some of the best bbq around and soak in the great atmosphere. All of that is why many people have the event marked on their calendars every year.
For more information about the Downtown Kitchener Ribfest & Craft Beer Show, please visit their website.