Category Archives: Local

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 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.


Bohemian rhapsody

We moved into our house in Waterdown on July 30, 1997, my 28th birthday. Gail and I had been married for a little over a year and a half, and had lived in a townhouse in Burlington for three years but we were getting ready to start our family and wanted a bigger place with a backyard. One of the things we loved about the house was the fact that it backed onto a banquet centre called The Bohemian. This meant that not only would we not be looking over our fence into someone else’s house, but we had a beautiful view of trees and green space from our kitchen window.

This is a picture we took after we bought the house but before we moved in. It’s is not the best view of the Bohemian grounds, but I was trying to take pictures of our new place, not the place next to it. This is probably sometime in April or May 1997. The building in the distance is the Bohemian itself, and the land to the right of it is maybe half of the whole property. You can see the other half of it in the second picture, below.

April 1997

For the first five years or so, the place was beautiful. The people who ran it kept it up very well. They were out cutting the grass and trimming the hedges and such every week. Whenever I went to cut our grass on weekends, I’d always check to see if there was a wedding going on – they had outdoor weddings there all summer long and I imagined they didn’t want the official screaming “Dearly beloved” over the sound of a lawn mower. There were squirrels everywhere and lots of birds including blue jays, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, finches, chickadees, woodpeckers, and the odd hummingbird. Occasionally we’d even see rabbits and one time an entire family of four raccoons walked along the top of our fence, one after the other. The road you see in the distance is Dundas St. (formerly Hwy 5) which is a fairly major road, but the trees blocked the sound (particularly in the summer) so we rarely ever heard traffic noise. We’d never actually met them, but couldn’t have been happier with our neighbours to the south.

A few years later, things changed a little when the owners sold the property. Soon thereafter they cut down a couple of trees and put in a bigger parking lot, but it was still far enough away that it didn’t really affect us. After a while it became evident that they weren’t as interested in appearances as the previous owners; the grass would sometimes go weeks without being cut, and the trees and bushes furthest away from the building started to look a little neglected. The outdoor weddings ceased. It was a little disappointing, but it really wasn’t a huge deal. We still had our green space and trees and wildlife.

Here’s a picture from about 13 years after the one above, April 21, 2010. This was taken from the kitchen window, basically looking out over top of the stairs to the deck you can see in the picture above.

April 2010

In the top left, you can see poles with lights strung between them that marked the edge of the “new” parking lot, which is to the right of the poles. I built the birdhouse in the foreground, and you can see two doves sitting on top of the fence just to the right of it.

And then we got the letter. I don’t know when it was exactly but sometime in 2012, we received a letter informing us that the Bohemian property had been purchased by a developer who was going to build townhouses there. I don’t believe they were required to inform us but they did anyway. They also notified us of a public meeting to give nearby residents more information about what was going to be happening as well as giving us the ability to ask the developer any questions we might have. We attended along with some of our neighbours and they showed us maps and artist’s renditions of what the property would look like. They told us that they’d be tearing down the existing fences and replacing them with new ones, and that some of the trees would have to be removed. We specifically asked how many trees, and they assured us that they’d make every effort to keep as many as they could. They seemed very accommodating and open and willing to answer all our questions.

On October 12, 2012, I tweeted “Sad day at our house. All the trees behind us are being ripped out” along with this picture:

October 2012

Over the next week or so, a whole bunch of trees were ripped out, including most of the ones you see in this picture. Shortly thereafter, the fence was taken down and replaced with a brand new cedar one. The new one looks much nicer than the old one, so some good has come from this. But over the next year, more and more trees were removed until finally in the fall of 2013 they took out the last ones. The property is currently a wasteland of mud and piles of dirt (note the fancy new fence):

April 2014

I’m very disappointed by this but in all honesty, I can’t say I’m angry. Who should I be angry to, and why? Nobody has any obligation to leave the property as it was. Nobody has any obligation to ensure that I have a lovely view from my kitchen. We live in a capitalist society and people and companies are out there to make money. Should a company be denied the right to make money because it would ruin my kitchen’s view? 66 families will be buying houses in this new development and will hopefully be happy living there – why is my happiness any more important than theirs?

I also can’t say I’m surprised. It’s a prime property for housing in a growing community, and the owner has the right to do with it what he wants. Trees are nice but we all know that if they get in the way of a project, they’re gone. If you were given the opportunity to build a house for a hundred thousand dollars and sell it for four hundred thousand, you’d likely drop a few trees to make that happen too. If you were a developer building 66 such houses (selling for $25+ million), you’d nuke every tree in sight to make sure it happened and I would too. Kinda sad but true.

It’s currently May 2014. The trailer in the last picture above has been removed. Now that the snow has gone, they’ve been out with the loaders bringing in more dirt and spreading it around. I imagine the construction will soon begin in earnest and a year from now there will be 66 townhouses behind us. We’ll be able to look out our kitchen window directly into someone else’s house, and the big picture window in our kitchen, which has never had blinds or curtains of any kind, will become a lens into our life. I guess we had beautiful greenspace behind our house for fifteen years, which is more than most suburban families can boast, so we can’t complain too much. But we will anyway.

Oh Canada! Ribfest 2013

Waterdown’s 4th Annual Oh Canada! Ribfest was a couple of weeks ago, and I almost forgot to write about it! This is hardly a disaster – probably the only person who’ll read it is me next year when we try to remember who we liked this year. Articles describing previous years are here: 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Anyway, I love this event and look forward to it all year. We had the same seven ribbers as last year, but my opinions of some were quite different. They were:

Kentucky Smokehouse – The ribs were pretty good, though the few at the very end of the rack were pretty tough. This is not unusual for ribs, but these ones were impossible to eat. The sauce had a bit of kick though, and we bought a bottle of it to take home. I believe these guys ended up second in the people’s choice awards.

Silver Bullet – These guys had our favourite sauce in previous years and this year it was still pretty good, but I found it sweeter than before. Their ribs were really good. For the third straight year, we bought a bottle of their sauce, and also bought a pound of pulled pork to take home.

Bone Daddy – My personal favourites this year. The sauce was nice and smoky and the ribs were great. I believe they won the judges voting this year.

Ribs Royale – Once again, we were somewhat disappointed with these guys. Their sauce wasn’t bad, but the ribs didn’t have much meat and were tough.

Tennessee Fatbacks – Wasn’t too impressed with them last year and no huge improvement this year. The ribs were juicy so that was good, but the sauce was kind of bland.

Camp 31 – Last year I said their sauce wasn’t as sweet as the year before, but this year it was sweeter again. The ribs weren’t great though – kind of chewy.

Boss Hog – The ribs were dry, but the sauce was good and spicy.

I just realized that I’ve written this article with the implicit assumption that sweeter sauce = bad, spicier sauce = good. That’s not always the case – some sweeter sauces are really good – and of course, it’s only my opinion, but I do tend to prefer smoky and spicy sauces over sweet ones.

We volunteered once again this year, but didn’t get off our butts to sign up until quite late, so there were only a handful of spots open that we could make. We ended up at one of the recycling tents again, and I have to say that these are a fantastic idea. There are no garbage cans in the park at all, just three or four recycling tents where people bring all of their waste. All the rib containers were made of cardboard and so they were compostable, along with all the food leftovers. All the plastic cutlery, beer cups, pop cans, and little plastic cups for sauce were recyclable, so there were blue bins for those. Even the coffee cup lids from Tim Horton’s (across the street) were recyclable and the cups themselves were compostable. Probably 95% of the time, we removed forks from the rib containers, threw the forks in the blue bin, and dropped the rest into the compost bag.

The only things that were thrown in the actual garbage were straws, plastic candy wrappers, and, ironically, the ties that held the bundles of empty compost bags together. Oh, and one used diaper. We stayed in the same tent for four hours and didn’t collect enough garbage to warrant changing the garbage bag at all. Meanwhile, I must have carried 20 four-foot-tall compost bags and 7 or 8 huge bags of recycling over to the collection area.

In previous articles, I wrote about the bands we saw playing during the day, but this year I only know of one for sure: Borrowed Time, which is my friend Ron’s band. We arrived shortly before they finished their set so I only saw a couple of songs, but they were good, especially considering they had only been together for several weeks. The oom-pah-pah band (with the great name of Subourbon Street) that’s there every year were there again, there was a guy that sang and played guitar by himself, and there was at least one band that played mostly Canadian classic rock (I distinctly remember hearing Trooper, Doug and the Slugs, and the Tragically Hip), so I enjoyed them.

It was a little cooler this year than in previous years. But that just means mid-20’s rather than mid-30’s, which was beautiful. Like I said, I look forward to this every year, and this year Waterdown is having a chili festival in September. That’s only one day rather than a whole weekend, but I’m already looking forward to that as well. Then maybe we’ll head to the Westfield ice cream festival and the Winona peach festival. You just can’t have too many festivals dedicated to food!

Anti-vaccination messages are the real danger

There was a letter to the editor in the Flamborough Review this past week about how harmful vaccinations are. I felt compelled to respond, not only because I’m a skeptic and get angry when I read crap like this, but because this is in my local paper, and if people read this misinformation and decide not to get vaccinated, that could directly affect me and my family.

Interestingly, the letter was written by the same guy who wrote another letter to the editor, that one about teachers, that I responded to a little over a year ago.

Here’s the text of his letter, reproduced here in case the link above vanishes sometime in the future.

I wanted to voice my opinion, backed by evidence, that vaccines, of any sort, are dangerous.

The first vaccine was developed in the late 1700s in England when cowpox pus was inserted under the skin of an eight-year-old in the belief that it would make people immune to smallpox. What happened over the next century was an epidemic of small pox incidents, to 95 per cent of the population.

A 2012 study by Dr. Witt, an infectious disease specialist in California, found  whooping cough is more prevalent in vaccinated children that those who are not vaccinated. In 2010, a mumps outbreak occurred in New Jersey in more than 1,000 children, over 80 per cent of whom had been vaccinated with the MMR shot. A study in New Zealand found that children born after 1977, who were vaccinated, were 25 per cent more likely to contract asthma. Finally, in June of this year, a couple in Italy won their court case when it was conclusively established that the MMR vaccine had triggered autism in their child. The MMR shot in Italy contains the same “ingredients” as in North America.

There are web links to dozens of cases that have proven vaccines trigger all sorts of diseases in children. Allopathic medicine is not interested in curing. It only treats symptoms and pushes invasive procedures of surgery and medicine that create more complications. Also, Health Canada does not perform any independent studies of any drug. They simply review the data supplied to them by the companies seeking approval.

Do your due diligence, become enlightened and educated about what is going in you and your children. Hopefully you will realize you are being deceived and much of the information you need to know is being suppressed.

Kevin Inglehart

Here’s my response. I wasn’t able to include my references in the letter to the editor, but I’ve included them here.

After reading Kevin Inglehart’s rant against vaccinations, I had to respond in order to provide a counterpoint in the hope that local people will not be convinced by this misleading information to skip their flu shots.

In Mr. Inglehart’s letter, he cites a study by a Dr. Witt that found that “whooping cough is more prevalent in vaccinated children than those who are not vaccinated.” If you look more closely at the study, Dr. Witt’s actual conclusion was that the whooping cough vaccine IS effective, but its effectiveness doesn’t last as long as originally thought. The number of whooping cough cases increased as the vaccine’s effectiveness diminished, and then decreased as children received their booster shot at age 12. The original claim, that most of the cases were in vaccinated children, is true but only because vaccinated children were the majority (78% on average in North America) in the first place. This is like saying that the number of right-handed children who get whooping cough is higher than the number of left-handed children who get it. Absolutely true, but it does not mean that left-handers are less likely to get sick. In general, unvaccinated children are eight times as likely to get whooping cough as vaccinated children.

Ironically, right in the middle of the front page of Dr. Witt’s clinic’s web site, there is a notice urging people to get their flu shots. If Mr. Inglehart is looking for a doctor to agree with his anti-vaccination position, he will have to look elsewhere.

Yes, outbreaks can still occur among vaccinated children, as evidenced by the mumps epidemic mentioned by Mr. Inglehart. However, such outbreaks are far smaller and the symptoms far less dangerous than if the majority of children were not vaccinated. The facts speak for themselves: The mumps vaccine was first used in 1967 and since then, the number of reported cases has decreased in the US from 186,000 per year to less than 500 per year.

Thousands of children have died and hundreds of thousands have become sick from diseases for which there are effective vaccines. On the other hand, the number of cases of autism that have been conclusively and scientifically proven to have been caused by vaccines is zero.  The Autism Science Foundation itself states “The studies are very clear; there is no relationship in the data between vaccines and autism.” In the court case in Italy, the autism-vaccination link was “conclusively established” by the judge, not by scientists. Actual scientists are outraged with the finding since it, and most anti-vaccination arguments, stem from a single study in England from the late 1990’s that was later proven to be not only false but also fraudulent.

If you believe that the entire health care industry (including millions of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, scientists, and other health care professionals around the world) is a global conspiracy to keep people sick, then nothing I write here will change your mind. For the rest of us, vaccinations are a safe and effective defense against many diseases including the flu. For the record, I am not a member of the health care industry, just someone who has done exactly what Mr. Inglehart has suggested – my own research.

References for all the claims I have made above are available at

Graeme Perrow

Update: My letter was not printed, but they did print another similar one from a professor at the University of Guelph. While it would have been cool if they had printed mine, I’m very glad they printed something, and something from a professor might carry more weight with people than from a regular guy like me. If there’s anyone who read the first letter and was considering not getting a flu shot because of it, hopefully this one will convince them otherwise.

National Home Services’ dirty tricks

The doorbell rang this afternoon. I answered it, and there was a guy who said he was representing National Home Services. He even had a badge with the company logo on it, and it might have had his picture, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. He said that he and his colleague were in the neighbourhood checking on people’s hot water heaters. (Aside: why do we call it a “hot water heater”? It doesn’t heat hot water, it just heats water. It’s a water heater.) He said they were making sure that the heaters were as energy efficient as they could be, and they were upgrading them for free if not. I told him that our heater was only a year or two old so it was unlikely that we had a terribly inefficent model (this may have been a white lie – I’m not 100% sure how old it is, but it’s certainly not more than four or five years). Then he said that there was a mistake made at some point, and some of the heaters that were installed were the wrong ones and they should be replaced. Lie #1.

I don’t remember the exact words he used, but the impression he gave me was that his company was contracted by Reliance Home Comfort (the company from whom we rent our hot water heater) to check our heater and make sure it’s OK. I asked if Reliance was worried about whether we have the right heater, why didn’t they call us? He said that he didn’t know. I said that I was going to call Reliance to verify that they were sending someone for this purpose, and he admitted that he does not work for Reliance, and that National is one of their competitors. He then went on a little rant about Reliance, saying that they were an American company (Lie #2), that they are actually an investment company (Lie #3), and that George W. Bush owns 51% of the company (Lie #4). He must have mentioned three or four times that National is a Canadian company while Reliance is American. He also said stuff like Reliance had bought all the hot water heaters from Union Energy for $30 each as an investment, so it’s not in their best interest to maintain them or replace them. I have no way to verify that but from what I’ve found, Reliance Home Comfort used to be Union Energy and just changed their name in 2005. I’m guessing that that was Lie #5 but I can’t be sure.

He offered to come in and take a look at our heater and see if it was one of the ones “mistakenly” installed. What are the odds that he’d take a look at our heater and say “Nope, this one is OK. You don’t need your heater replaced. Have a nice day”? Pretty low indeed.

Eventually he must have figured out that I was not going for it, and he left. Of course, I then did some research on the internet to find out how much of what he was saying was true. I found that Reliance Home Comfort is a limited partnership, whose brand name is owned by a Canadian “open-ended limited purpose trust” called UE Waterheater Income Fund (this could, I suppose, be viewed as “an investment company”). That company is privately owned, so it’s possible that the ownership is American and it’s even possible that Mr. Bush does own 51% of it, though I found no evidence of either of those. However, the Reliance Home Comfort part operates solely in Ontario and the corporate headquarters of both Reliance and UE Waterheater are in Toronto.

I cannot say with certainty that the bit about Reliance installing the wrong water heaters was a lie. But even if it’s true, he tried to imply that he was there to simply fix the problem, when in reality he was trying to get me to switch to an entirely new company. He failed to mention that part until I pressed.

But even if what he told me was true, why do I care whether the company I rent my hot water heater from is Canadian, American, or Brazilian? As long as the heater functions properly, their service is reasonable when needed, and I’m not paying an unreasonable price for it, the fact is that I don’t care. I’ve only had to call for service once that I remember, when the heater wasn’t working very well. They came out within a day or two and replaced the heater with a brand new one, and the new one (more efficient and bigger – same monthly price) has worked flawlessly ever since.

The guy’s whole sales technique was based on (a) misleading people into thinking that he was there on behalf of whatever company they were already dealing with, and then when that didn’t work, (b) bashing Reliance by telling lies about them.

I posted this on National Home Service’s Facebook page:

Pushy sales people are one thing, but sales people who mislead and tell outright lies about your competitors are unacceptable. It doesn’t matter how good your prices or services are, I refuse to deal with a company that uses such underhanded sales techniques.

I also mentioned them on Twitter in a similar message. I don’t imagine that the Facebook comment will stay there long or that they’ll respond to it, but between those two things and this article, I’ve managed to say what I wanted to say. I don’t care if they give me a brand new water heater for $5 a month, I’m not dealing with this company.

Oh Canada! Ribfest 2012

This past weekend was Waterdown’s 3rd annual Oh Canada! Ribfest, and not coincidentally, this is my 3rd annual article about it. I find writing these articles helpful, since last year’s article helped me remember which ribbers we especially liked or didn’t like. In previous years, there were six ribbers but this year, there was an extra one. There were actually two new ones, but we lost Fire Island. This year, we had:

Kentucky Smokehouse – These guys were new, and I have to say we weren’t that impressed. The ribs weren’t very meaty, and there wasn’t much sauce. What sauce there was wasn’t bad though. Maybe we got a bad batch, because these guys finished second in people’s choice best ribs and people’s choice best sauce.

Boss Hog – My favourites last year, and this year I’d have to put them second. The ribs were very meaty, and there was lots of sauce. The sauce was somewhat sweet but not too sweet. Not as smoky as last year. These guys swept the awards: best judged ribs, people’s choice best ribs, and people’s choice best sauce.

Tennessee Fatbacks – Another new one and again, no big deal. The ribs were OK, the sauce was OK, but nothing to write home about.

Ribs Royale – Didn’t think much of these guys last year, though lots of other people seemed to like them. This year, again I heard lots of good things but they just didn’t do it for me. The ribs were OK but didn’t “fall off the bone” as with the other ribbers. The sauce was interesting though – tangy but not sweet. Had a kick, but wasn’t exactly spicy. Hard to describe, but pretty good. They got 3rd place in the best judged ribs.

Camp 31 – The ribs were really good, and the sauce wasn’t bad. Had a bit of a kick and wasn’t as sweet as last year.

Silver Bullet – Our favourite. The ribs were really good, with an awesome spicy sauce. For the second straight year, we bought a bottle to bring home. For the first time, we also tried a pulled pork sandwich from these guys, and that was fantastic. They got second in judged ribs and third in both people’s choice best ribs and people’s choice best sauce.

Bone Daddy – we didn’t get there. Really liked them last year, but this year the timing just didn’t work out.

Once again we volunteered as a family, first on Saturday afternoon from 3pm-7pm and then again on Monday from 11am-3pm. We originally signed up to be in the recycling tent, just like last year, but we said we’d go wherever they needed us. On Saturday they needed people at parking, so we stood at the entrance to the parking lot and collected money. This worked out pretty well, and the boys both got into it and were very helpful, collecting money and making change and everything. Despite the “No in and out privileges” sign, lots of people asked if they could leave and come back later. If they had a decent reason for it (my kid is sick and I’m going to drop him off at his grandparents place and come right back, I brought my dog who is not allowed in the park so I have to take him home) and they could be back in five minutes or so, I generally let it go, but there were people who wanted to come back “in an hour or two”. Come on people, get real. And a couple of people didn’t want to pay at all, so they just turned around and left. One guy said he was just going to the skate park and not the Ribfest, but I told him too bad, this was Ribfest parking. He said OK and drove into the parking lot, saying he was just going to turn around, and never came back out. The number of selfish jerks out there who just try to take advantage of everyone really amazes and disappoints me sometimes.

Anyway, on Monday, they split the four of us up, and Gail and Nicky went to one of the far entrances to the park and counted people coming and going, while Ryan and I were given the most glamorous of volunteer jobs, the one everyone strives for: walking around the park in 32° heat for four hours picking up garbage off the ground. After an hour or so Ryan was pretty hot and tired and was starting to get grumpy, so I sent him to sit with Gail and continued by myself. Have to say, there were an amazing number of cigarette butts lying around, considering smoking was not allowed anywhere in the park. One of the Rotary Club guys who was in charge of volunteers stopped me after about 3 hours, told me I was doing a great job, and then asked “Hey, would you like a beer?” Needless to say, I took him up on his offer – did I mention it was 32° and humid? It was only a ten minute break or so before I continued with my work, but man, that was nice.

I have but one complaint about the whole event – and I also heard it from a number of other people I know who went – and that’s the beer selection. A local microbrewery called Nickel Brook was the only beer choice, though they did have a couple of types of coolers (Smirnoff Ice being one). Not a huge fan of the Nickel Brook. This year I only had one, which was an organic beer. (Yes, I’m the last guy who’s likely to buy anything organic, but this was the one that the Rotary guy, Nick, bought me.) It wasn’t bad, but I won’t be partaking again. Once again though, I did enjoy Nickel Brook’s root beer.

One thing that was new this year was the fireworks on Canada Day, which lasted a good 20 minutes and were excellent. There was no world record attempt this year, though maybe that’s for the best. Last year we set a new record for “most people singing simultaneously live on a radio broadcast”, with about 650 people. As it turns out, the record was smashed a week later in England, when 3,885 people sang at Wembley Arena. It’s kind of too bad that so many people worked to make that happen, and then we only held the record for a week. Oh well.

Once again this year, snaps go out to the Rotary Club, the sponsors, and the rest of the volunteers who made this great event happen. Looking forward to next year already!

Oh Canada! Ribfest 2011

Waterdown held its second annual Oh Canada! Ribfest this past weekend. I wrote about last year’s ribfest and I’m very glad I did, since 5 of the 6 ribbers that were there last year were there again this year, and none of us could remember which ones we liked. Again this year, we tried ribs from each of the six ribbers. We had a half rack from two of them on Thursday, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday. This year’s ribbers were:

Boss Hog – Sauce was nice and smoky, and the ribs were excellent. My favourite, and Ryan’s too. They even had the best beans.

Fire Island – Our favourite sauce last year, but not this year. Last year, their sauce was smoky and had some bite, while this year it was much sweeter. The ribs we had were big but mostly bone, so they weren’t very meaty.

Silver Bullet – Great ribs and nice tangy sauce. Gail’s and Nicky’s favourite and me and Ryan put them at a solid #2.

Camp 31 – Ribs were good and meaty, sauce was sweeter than most of the others.

Bone Daddy – Great ribs with a nice spicy sauce. Challenged the Silver Bullet guys for #2.

Ribs Royale – New to the Waterdown ribfest this year. We weren’t that impressed with the newcomers, since most of our ribs were tough and dry. We even left one uneaten – a sacrilege. The sauce wasn’t bad. A few other people I talked to said they really liked these guys, so perhaps the half-rack we got was an anomaly.

All of the ribbers also sold BBQ chicken and pulled pork, though it never occurred to me to try anything other than the ribs. They had the same non-rib food vendors as last year – Tiny Tom’s donuts, corn on the cob and yams, hot dogs, burgers, fries, bloomin’ onions, fresh lemonade, and an ice cream van. Unfortunately, the spiral spuds that we enjoyed last year weren’t available this year.

Helping Out

Gail helped out by volunteering last year, and this year all four of us did. On Thursday from 3:00 to 7:00pm, we were stationed in one of the recycling tents, which was somewhat misnamed since all waste (garbage and recycling and everything else) was brought there and we sorted it. Unfortunately, Thursday afternoon was the least busy and so for most of our four hour shift, we just sat. Occasionally we would grab a blue box and walk around the tables picking up garbage that lazy people had left behind, and the boys played with a beach ball for a while. The worst part was that there were twelve people in this tent – the four of us, a friend of Ryan’s, and a bunch of mostly grumpy high school students trying to get some volunteer hours in – so the place was seriously overstaffed.

While sitting in the recycling tent, we got to listen to a few local bands who were performing. The first one had the odd name of Science Ninja Big Ten, and they sounded like a B-52’s cover band, except that they played (AFAIK) originals. They were OK, but not my cup of tea. The second was a trio called Trees and I really enjoyed these guys. They had a Wide Mouth Mason thing happening and did an assortment of originals and covers, though their covers were quite different from the originals – sort of funky and bluesy at the same time. Next was a duo, Ria and Bill, who played “standards” – everything from Petula Clark’s “Downtown” to Van Morrison’s “Moondance” to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made For Walkin'”. Again, not bad but not my thing.

We volunteered again on Saturday afternoon, and this time there were just six (the four of us, one grumpy teenager and another teenager who was quiet but not that grumpy) in the tent, and it was much busier. We certainly had some idle times, but other times the table was piling up with stuff just as fast as we could get rid of it. We got to listen to some different bands too. The Freeltones (who are presumably from the nearby town of Freelton, get it?) played first, and they played mostly 70’s classic rock. They were pretty good, though it’s unfortunate that the singer had his feet glued to the floor. I realize that nobody in the crowd came specifically to see you, and I’m not expecting Mick Jagger kind of energy, but dude, you’re allowed to move. Next was a Dixieland jazz band with the cool name of Subourbon Street. They even had a sousaphone. I’m not a huge fan of jazz, and I have to say that Dixieland isn’t my favourite – at one point they started a new song, and Nicky asked me “didn’t they already play this?” I responded that I couldn’t tell – it sounded to me like they’d played the same song a number of times. After they were done, a band called Straight Cut came out. They played heavier rock and even though there was a half-hour or so between bands, the juxtaposition was a little jarring – from oom-pah-pah to Judas Priest. They played some classic rock (Doobie Brothers, Cream, and both these guys and the Freeltones played Takin’ Care of Business – more on that particular ditty later), but also some heavier stuff – Machinehead by Bush, Whiskey in the Jar (originally by Thin Lizzy I think but these guys did the Metallica version), and the aforementioned Priest. This is my kind of music, so I enjoyed this band.

The Record

On Sunday, the organizers put together an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records – they asked everyone to gather in the baseball diamond to sing BTO’s Takin’ Care of Business, and the performance would be broadcast live on the radio. The world’s record for most people singing simultaneously on the radio was 622, and we packed over 650 people in the ball diamond. If this seems like an odd record to try for, consider some other records that were set and recorded recently – “Most people dressed as Smurfs within 24 hours” and “Most people applying sunscreen at once“. Those Guinness people take their records seriously – we had to close off all the entrances to the baseball diamond except one, and have a couple of people counting everyone who went in. There were a bunch of volunteers whose job it was to watch a small portion of the crowd, making sure everyone was actually singing and not just lip syncing, and count the number of people not singing. Those volunteers had to report their numbers later and sign affidavits to legally swear to the numbers.

Kudos once again to the Waterdown Rotary Club for putting this great event together and to our fellow volunteers. I saw people from my baseball team, people I know on twitter, people from Nicky’s school, people from Scouting, some neighbours and other friends of ours in the area, plus the editor of the local paper and our local MPP. We all had a great time with some great music, a world record, and of course, good eatin’.

And the winner for best soap box dispenser is…

While driving around town the other day, I spotted a local business sporting a new sign: “Your community’s award-winning laundromat”. I’m curious as to exactly what awards they won. I guess I’ve been remiss in my attention to the local laundromat awards.

When they “Your community”, do they mean Waterdown, or is this Hamilton-wide? When and where was the ceremony? Is this a rent-the-Legion kind of event, or were they down at the Hamilton Convention Centre? Or Copps Coliseum? We get both the Hamilton and local Flamborough papers, and I don’t remember mention of it, but maybe I just missed it. Must have happened while I was in hospital. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.

I’m sure that Hamilton’s A-list celebrities were all there – that would be star of stage and screen Martin Short, hoser Dave Thomas, Ti-Cats owner Bob Young, and sports journalist Stephen Brunt. And the bands Junkhouse and Teenage Head. Waterdown’s A list might also have been there, consisting of… ummmm…. well, the guy that played Harold on the Red Green show used to live here, does that count? And I once saw the coach (at the time) of the Tiger-Cats in the local grocery store, but then he got fired and moved back to London.

Anyway, congratulations to Cedars Laundromat on their victory, and I look forward to seeing if they can make it two in a row at next year’s Soapie Awards. Probably on pay-per-view.

Oh Canada! Ribfest

Ribfest Waterdown held its first annual Oh Canada! Ribfest this past weekend. There were six “ribbers” selling not only ribs but chicken and pulled pork, and each one sold bottles of their custom BBQ sauce as well. Some had other sides like beans, cole slaw, and corn bread. There were other places selling Bloomin’ Onions and Spiral Spuds, as well as pitas, roasted yams, corn-on-the-cob, and your standard nachos, burgers, dogs, and fries. And don’t forget the ice cream and mini-donuts. And the beer! They had beer and coolers from a local micro-brewery, Nickel Brook. I tried the Green Apple Pilsner on Thursday, which tasted kind of like beer mixed with apple cider. Doesn’t really sound that good, but I liked it. It’s kind of like Corona for me – I wouldn’t buy a case of it, but once in a while, on a hot summer day (like today), it’s very nice. On Sunday, I tried their regular pilsner, which I wasn’t too thrilled with. But I also tried their draft root beer, which was very different from regular A&W or Barq’s root beer – almost had a black liquorice taste to it. That stuff was good, and surprisingly Gail, who likes neither black liquorice nor root beer, liked it too.

I'm on a horse.Besides the food, there was a stage where kids from local dance schools showed their talent, a bunch of local bands played, and at night on Thursday, they dropped down a huge screen and showed How To Train Your Dragon. There was a little midway with kids rides, and a bunch of local vendors set up booths as well. On Canada Day, they had a mountie present for a “Citizenship Court”, as a number of local people became brand new Canadian citizens. Nothing says Canada like a mountie in full uniform, except maybe a mountie in full uniform on a horse. Holding a Tim Horton’s cup.

The ribfest was held at Memorial Park in Waterdown, which is about 1½ km from our house, so we walked there and back – three times. (Well, two times. We drove on Sunday when it was 35° outside.) We went for lunch on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. There were ballots for voting on the ribbers, and we wanted to be informed voters, so we made sure we tried them all before voting. Plus the ribs were so good, we just had to keep going back. Good thing dental floss is cheap – I’ve gone through an awful lot of it in the past few days.

There were six ribbers showcasing their wares, and you could vote in each of two categories: ribs and sauce. The ribbers were:

Fire Island – Ribs: pretty good. Sauce: excellent. The sauce was more smoky and had a bit more of a bite than the others. All four of us chose this as our favourite sauce. We had BBQ sauce on the ribs, but we had a sample of their honey-garlic sauce as well (zingy!), and it was so good that we bought a bottle.

Boss Hog – Ribs: Awesome. Sauce: sweet. The meat just fell off the bones, and even the ribs near the end of the rack weren’t dry at all. My vote for best ribs, and Nicky’s too.

Silver Bullet – Ribs: Very good. Sauce: tangy. Gail’s favourite ribs.

Camp 31 – Ribs: Very good. Sauce: tangy. Similar to Silver Bullet. [Warning: web site plays music.]

Bone Daddy – Ribs: Awesome. Sauce: excellent. For me, these guys had the second-best ribs and the second-best sauce. Ryan’s vote for best ribs.

Hawgs Gone Wild – Ribs: not bad. Sauce: sweet. The ribs were OK, but kind of dry. Their corn bread was very good and we got two big pieces for $1 (or more accurately, we got eight big pieces for $4). We had the ribs on Thursday, but went back on Sunday for more corn bread. [Warning: web site contains no information whatsoever. Interestingly, it was designed by the same people who did the Camp 31 site. Hmmm…]

The ribfest had its own web site, which could have used some more work – lots of typos and spelling errors. Also, when some pages contain things like “check back later to find out more information” or “we will have a list of events here” during the event, you know the web site people haven’t been keeping up. There’s a list of the ribbers, but it’s not up-to-date either – two of the ones listed on the web site aren’t there, and Camp 31 and Hawgs Gone Wild aren’t listed at all. But if my biggest complaint about an event is that their web site isn’t up to snuff, that’s not too bad.

Big kudos and many thanks to the Rotary Club and all the volunteers for all their hard work! This event was not only a lot of fun for our family, but great for our community, and we hope to see it return next year and for many years in the future. Gail volunteered on Saturday night for a few hours, and next year we’re all planning on volunteering for various shifts. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be at Joe Sams park next year, which is much bigger than Memorial Park but further north. It’s not walkable from the Waterdown core, so parking will be a much bigger issue. Perhaps there will be shuttle busses available from “downtown” up to the park. They couldn’t get a license to have fireworks at Memorial Park but they should be able to at Joe Sam’s, so hopefully there will be fireworks next year. I’m already looking forward to it!

Man of the House?

The doorbell rang last night just before dinner. Our visitor was a teenage kid, trying to get me to subscribe to the Toronto Sun. I said no (more on that below) and he left, but I just had to laugh at the first thing he asked me: “Are you the man of the house?” I said yes, but thinking back, I’m not quite sure what he meant. Did he perhaps think that I lived with my parents, and he should be talking to them? Maybe he was standing at such an angle that he couldn’t see the gray in my hair. In reality, I should have just said “I don’t know — hold on, let me ask my wife.”

About a year ago, I did get the Sunday Sun for a few months, thanks to a similar offer — something like $12 for 20 weeks. It’s such crap. The sports section is good, but I don’t like the way the paper reports the actual news. I currently get the Hamilton Spectator every day, and one of the things I enjoy reading is the letters to the editor section (I’ve even had a letter published). With the Sun, each letter has an editor’s comment after it, and they’re usually snarky unless you agree with them; this just seems childish to me.

The thing that bugs me the most is that the paper is so anti-Liberal, it’s not even funny. Shortly before the last election, they ran a front-page headline that read something like “100 Reasons Not To Vote Liberal”. It’s not that I’m pro-Liberal so I disagree with their position (I have no particular political leanings at all, actually), but what bothers me is the fact that the paper has a position. When I read the news, I want just the news. It want it presented to me in an honest unbiased way, so that I can read the facts and make up my own mind. Maybe that’s naïve, but when reading the Sun, I have no confidence that what I’m reading doesn’t have their own little (or not-so-little) spin on it. How do I know that some facts that might present the Liberals in a positive light aren’t missing, or distorted, or spun somehow to make it look more negative?

There’s also the fact that it’s a Toronto paper, and the Toronto papers all hate Hamilton. I’ll stick with the Spec, thanks.