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Rib Fest a tasty way to spend a weekend (13 photos)

Crowds start to gather and sweet-smelling smoke filled the air on Friday at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition grounds as this year's event began.

THUNDER BAY –Fayth Chambers and Tori Demko each had a pretty big decision to make on Friday afternoon.

However, with college about to start up again and both headed out of town to resume their studies, book and classes were the furthest things from their minds.

No, the two young women had bigger, and more succulent, things to think about.

They had to choose which ribber to line up at for lunch.

The friends were among the first to arrive at this year’s Thunder Bay Rib Fest, which has moved from downtown Port Arthur to a more centralized location at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, Demko said.

“We usually pick the sauce first and then we go, ‘Hmmm, what one do we want,’” she said, not long after stopping at this year’s participating ribber trucks for a sampling of their sauce.

Rib Fest has become a tradition for the pair, said Chambers, who leaves soon for Calgary.

“Every year we come and we make it a point of coming,” she said, the sun beating down on the early afternoon crowd.

“The first time we were just looking for something to do and it was like, why not go eat some ribs? It’s been tons of fun ever since.”

This year’s event, the single largest fundraiser for Our Kids Count, features Ribs Royale, a returning favourite that has taken part in all six previous Thunder Bay events, and two newcomers, the Hogfather and Dinosaur Smokehouse.

Thunder Bay’s Silver Birch Restaurant is also on hand, offering up their own saucy creations, not to mention a bevy of other food and other vendors ensuring a little something for everyone at the free admission event.

Gus Sakellis of Ribs Royale Barbecue, is in his seventh year at the Thunder Bay Rib Fest and said he had no idea how it would work out that first trek north.

Now the event is branded into his calendar.

“Thunder Bay welcomed us with open arms. We couldn’t believe the first year the amount of turnout we had. And ever since then it’s been growing every year. We’re very happy to be here and we have the weather on our side this year.

“We have lots of ribs, lots of beer flowing, lots of space. We’ve got all the elements we need.”

An early crowd is always a good sign, Sakellis added.

“It’s very positive, very encouraging,” he said.

Gladys Berringer, executive director at Our Kids Count, said she’s pumped and excited for three days of delicious fun, that also includes a children’s area and live entertainment.

The new space has proven to be a fantastic change, she said.

“Set-up yesterday was amazing,” Berringer said. “Everything went smoothly. All our vendors are extremely happy because it was a lot easier having the space and not having to be cautious ... We had to do a lot of jiggling to fit in downtown.”

Rib Fest runs through Sunday at the CLE.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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