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New venue a success for Ribfest (18 photos)

Ribfest organizers say feedback on the move to the CLE grounds has been overwhelmingly positive

THUNDER BAY - It turns out a winning recipe for rib sauce contains an ingredient you wouldn’t necessarily expect, but leaves you with more than just a unique taste in your mouth.

“Our secret is our sauce,” said Ahmed Al, a cook with Dinosaur Smokehouse from Little Rock, Arkansas, voted this year’s top professional ribber at Ribfest. “It’s the pickle juice that made it a game changer. After we added that pickle juice, we started winning more shows and people started liking our sauce a lot more.”

“It makes it more tangy,” Al added. “It’s more than just a taste, you get a feeling in the back of your throat.”

The top professional ribber was named on Sunday during the final day of Ribfest. The annual fundraiser for Our Kids Count saw thousands of people come out to enjoy some good food and entertainment, as well as the Riverfront Rumble Car Show and the Outdoor Show.

“The whole thing is blowing us over because we are getting such a wonderful reception from the community,” said Gladys Berringer, executive director with Our Kids Count. “We are just absolutely thrilled.”

This year marked a move for the event from the downtown north core to the CLE grounds and Berringer said the public has welcomed the change.

“We have a couple kinks to work out for next year,” she said. “We are taking all the feedback from people as they come through, but overwhelmingly everyone is excited about the new space.”

“We know our seating area has doubled from what we had downtown and it’s been full for the whole weekend. We used to estimate 20,000 to 30,000 when we were down town, and we expect to be that or even more.”

Cyndi Sereda, board member with Our Kids Count, said she has watched Ribfest grow every year and it was the right time to make the move.

“When I walked in here on Friday I knew it was the right venue,” she said. “Kudos to the last location we had, but we were outgrowing it, so we had to find a spot that would service everybody, even the dogs.”

And while everyone was out enjoying the ribs and the company, Ribfest also helps raise awareness about important issues affecting the city, Sereda said.

“When I look back over the years that I have been on the board, just watching it grow, this is probably the major and best fundraiser we have,” she said. “It is very important for a lot of reasons because it’s bringing the community together and making them aware of the social issues in Thunder Bay and food struggles that people have."

Sereda also had the difficult task of being one of the judges for the professional ribber contest. It wasn’t easy picking just one.

“They were all superior,” she said. “Everyone single one of them was unique, so I encourage the people of Thunder Bay to buy some.”

And after the winner was announced, everyone was flocking for a taste of that unique sauce from Little Rock.

“Oh yeah, definitely, our line has gotten huge,” Al said. “Out of nowhere. It feels great. We can show it off to people when we come back here next year. I think for sure next year we will be back.”

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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