THUNDER BAY -- Gus Sakellis came just short of sweeping two titles at last year’s Rib Fest.
Sakellis and his operation, Ribs Royal BBQ, won the judges’ award for Best Ribs but there was room for improvement with the sauce. He was determined to come back with a winning recipe.
His hard work was validated this weekend as they were awarded the judges’ selections for Best Ribs and Best Sauce at the third annual Rib Fest in Thunder Bay, a three-day event which concluded Sunday.
“The feedback was very important for us to know what improvements to make,” Sakellis said. “We’re going with more of a Western feel with the sauce and we’re based out of Nevada so it complements our theme and the ribs we use to cook with.”
Ribs Royale was one of four ribber circuit members who were in the city this weekend’s festival, which was held along Park Avenue and hosted by the Waterfront District Business Improvement Association, offering delicious, mouth-watering barbecue.
Organizer Suzan Cooper Rochon said the total attendance of the weekend appears to have met and surpassed their targets.
The format of the event is always getting small tweaks to keep a fresh appeal, though the continued popularity shows the event is more than just a temporary gimmick.
“This year I think we’ve had a bit over 30,000 over the three days, though it’s just an estimate,” she said in the late afternoon.
Jack Sakellis, the owner of the London, Ont. based Jack the Ribber, approached the Waterfront District BIA four years ago, suggesting they hold an event.
He said rib fests are popping up across the country as the new trend for summer festivals. He is pleased the Thunder Bay version continues to be a success.
“I’m glad it’s going so well. It’s really exceptional,” he said.
"It looks better and better every year."
The other two travelling ribbers were Route 55 and Fat Albert's.
Combined with the Rib Fest was the Motors and Muscles event, which was held concurrently along Court Street. Having the two different attractions made the area a destination with appeal for a wider audience.
The Motors and Muscles included a CrossFit games fitness exhibition as well.
There were also inflatable bouncing castles and other children’s activities to help make it family friendly.
Organizers placed a higher emphasis this year on giving local vendors an opportunity to showcase their food, allowing the more businesses to set up than in any of the past two years.
With many new, local eateries springing up the change was well received.
“I think adding local vendors has been a really big hit with everybody in Thunder Bay and then we had a contest for best local ribs which was great. It was something new and exciting,” Cooper Rochon said.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for businesses in the downtown waterfront district as well.”
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