Waterdown Ribfest 2014

Last weekend was the 5th annual Oh Canada Ribfest here in Waterdown. We love this event, and not only do we go every year, we volunteer every year, and I write about it every year. Here’s last year’s report (which contains links to the previous years’ articles).

Ribfest started on Friday evening and went all the way through to Tuesday (Canada Day), and we did a 4½ hour volunteer shift in the recycling tent every day except Friday. I was back to work on Wednesday but Gail and the boys went back again for a few hours to help clean up. Like I said, we love this event and volunteer every year because we want to see it succeed. We have fun volunteering as a family, it gives Ryan some volunteer hours for high school (not that he needs any more; he requires 40 hours over four years to graduate, and had all 40 done before Christmas of grade 9), and it gives both boys a taste of giving back to the community. It also shows them just how much work goes into an event like this, and hopefully leads them away from the path of people who complain about trivial things, or complain about how badly something is done while not lifting a finger to help do it better.

I even managed to get my picture in two tweets from the Ribfest organizers. The first was an accident (that’s me on the right with the red hat, helping to set up tables), but the second was a picture that the volunteer organizer Ryan Bridge took of me, Gail, and the boys as a thank-you for volunteering all weekend. That second one even made the local newspaper!

But onto the important stuff – the food!

Ribbers and other food

There were seven ribbers this year, six returning from last year and one team new to the event. We only managed to try ribs from five of them.

Camp 31 – really interesting sauce. Not exactly spicy and not exactly sweet, but… interesting. Really liked it. Their ribs weren’t bad.

Kentucky Smokehouse – exact opposite of Camp 31. Ribs were great, sauce was just OK. This is funny because last year we liked the Kentucky Smokehouse sauce so much, we bought a bottle to take home. Two of the guys working this rig looked like your stereotypical Kentucky hillbillies (picture below) and I heard on the radio that they are actually good friends with the Duck Dynasty guys. Interestingly, they seem to have lost the http://www.kentuckysmokehouse.com domain.


Crazy Canuck Smokers – new guys this year. The ribs weren’t bad but nothing to write home (or on a blog) about. The sauce was pretty good but we had it at the same time as Silver Bullet, so in comparison this sauce was kind of bland.

Boss Hogs – We wanted to try these guys on Tuesday for dinner but the lines were too long. They won the people’s choice awards for best ribs and best sauce so I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get to try them.

Bone Daddy’s – Never got a chance to try these guys either.

Ribs Royale – Haven’t been too impressed with these guys in previous years, but the rack we had this year was really good. The sauce was tangy and one of the better sauces we had, but the ribs were absolutely textbook fall-off-the-bone tender.

Silver Bullet – Nice spicy sauce as usual. Ribs were good too but I think I’m still partial to Kentucky Smokehouse and Ribs Royale. They were the only ribber to have corn bread, which was really good. We also bought some pulled pork and for the fourth straight year, a bottle to take home.

We also tried a few things from some of the other food vendors – roasted corn on the cob (which was amazing), some poutine from a “poutinerie” food truck (not bad), and a dozen Tiny Tom donuts (always good).


There were live bands all weekend long. Most of the bands we heard played classic rock and blues, and one creative band played an interesting version of Zeppelin’s Kashmir as well as rock versions of some country songs. Being Canada Day weekend, we heard a lot of Canadian content – Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Bryan Adams, The Tragically Hip, even Doug and the Slugs and The Stampeders. Real Canadians, of a certain age, will know exactly what Stampeders song that was. Alas, no Skinny Puppy. Go figure.

There was an acoustic duo who did covers of everything from Poison’s Something to Believe In and Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road to Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon. We heard the last 1/2 hour of a reggae band, who played the reggae song 5 or 6 times. My friend Ron’s band played during the “open mic” section on Tuesday, so that was pretty cool.

And of course, there was Johnny Cash. According to every live band I’ve ever heard play Johnny Cash, he has exactly two songs: Jackson and Folsom Prison Blues. I heard each of those songs at least twice this past weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever heard another Johnny Cash song performed live.

The Recycling tent

One of the great things about the Waterdown ribfest (and it might apply to other ribfests as well) is the environmental impact – or lack thereof. There are no garbage cans throughout the park, only three recycling tents. When people bring stuff to the recycling tents, almost none of it goes into the actual garbage. All food waste, napkins, and rib containers are compostable, and all the drink containers, pop cans, spoons, forks, and even straws go into the recycling bag (though straws didn’t last year). The only things left to go into the garbage were plastic popsicle wrappers, gum, the tops of the slushie containers (for some reason that kind of plastic was not recyclable), and just like last year, one used diaper.

Over four days, we spent more than sixteen hours in the main recycling tent and changed two garbage bags. Over the same amount of time, we must have changed at least 10-15 recycling bags and more than fifty yard waste bags.

Graeme’s rule of working the recycling tent

Someone is about to throw their rib box into the compost bag and before they do you ask “Are there any plastic forks in there?” Graeme’s rule says that if they answer “no”, chances are better than 50% (probably closer to 70%) that there is at least one fork in there. I’m sure most of the time it’s just people forgetting (“Oh right, we had some cole slaw, didn’t we?”) but sometimes it was people who just couldn’t be bothered thinking about it. I never stopped asking but even if they said no, I generally checked anyway.

Sometimes people would bring their garbage to the tent, put it down on the table, and walk away. Gail was very good at calling them back and directing them to put the things in the right bins themselves, while I tended to just do it for them. I’m a bit of a wimp that way.

I was also rather surprised at the number of people who had no idea how to compost. We had people bring their cardboard container full of napkins and rib bones up to the recycling tent, glance at the two big green bins with compost bags in them, and start to drop the whole thing in the opening marked “trash”. I managed to stop them (usually), then point out that the forks were recyclable and everything else compostable. Most of the time they were all “whatever” but we did get a few positive comments from people who were impressed by how much was not being thrown in the garbage.

Once again, huge kudos to the Flamborough and Waterdown Rotary clubs for putting on this great event, which brought almost 50,000 people into Waterdown over the five days. Hopefully they raised a boatload of money for their programs like helping to eliminate polio from the world and humanitarian projects in Africa and Asia, as well as things closer to home – the food bank, women’s shelter, and other programs for local seniors and kids. I’m already looking forward to next year.


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