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Ribfest 2019: Popular festival about to get a whole lot greener

Volunteers will sort waste, reuseable souvenir cups available for purchase

As you can imagine, an event like Downtown Sudbury Ribfest, which runs this year from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, produces a lot of waste.

Just think about all those gnawed-clean rib and chicken bones, as well as the many (many) takeout containers.

“The very first year of the event that was probably the big thing that kind of hit us in the head in terms of the amount of garbage that's generated,” said Downtown Sudbury executive director Maureen Luoma.

A group of volunteers called the Green Team keeps a handle on all that garbage. But for Ribfest's 12th edition, local agency reThink Green has come on board to make the festival a whole lot greener.

Volunteers will manage a waste-sorting station on festival grounds, where organics, recycling and garbage will be put into the appropriate receptacles. The amount of waste diverted to composting and recycling will be tracked.

Luoma said that in 2018, some of the rib teams actually started using compostable takeout containers.

A reuseable souvenir cup will be available to purchase for $2 to reduce the number of disposable cups used during the festival.

Finally, the amount of carbon the festival uses will be tracked by the agency. Once a baseline is created, the amount of carbon emissions produced by Ribfest will be compared each year with the goal of reducing those numbers.

“We are very excited to officially partner with Downtown Sudbury to help make Ribfest more environmentally sustainable,” said Leigha Benford, communications director with reThink Green.

“Festivals are tricky. They're fun, but they also generate a lot of waste. We're going to institute some small changes to hopefully make the festival greener overall.”

Ribfest runs this year Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

The festival grounds are on Minto Street, which will be closed down for the event, as well as the Sudbury Arena parking lot and Memorial Park.

Six rib teams are making the trip to Sudbury — Ribs Royale, Boss Hog's, Crabby's BBQ Shack, Jack the Ribber, Smokehouse Bandits and Mississippi Smokehouse.

They have the chance to win trophies for best ribs, best chicken and best sauce, as well as the People's Choice Award (you can vote on that last one yourself at the Downtown Sudbury booth until Sunday at 3 p.m.).

There will be live music by local performers in the Sudbury Arena parking lot and kids' activities, including a magic show, Science North demonstrations, wagon rides, face painting, crafts and more in Memorial Park.

Saturday night at dusk, Movie Night Under the Stars, which has not been operating so far this summer, returns with a free showing of the 1984 film “Karate Kid” in Memorial Park.

For the second year, YMCA of Northeastern Ontario — specifically the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign, which provides allows families in need to access YMCA's services for free — is the festival's charity of choice.

“For the first 11 years of this program, we have this event been able to donate close to $100,000 to charity,” Luoma said.

The YMCA, in turn, co-ordinates the volunteers for the festival. Downtown Sudbury wouldn't be able to put on Ribfest without this volunteer support, as it only has three permanent staff members.

“It's a real honour to be the charity of choice for the second year in a row,” said Helen Francis, president and CEO of YMCA of Northeastern Ontario.

“With all of our membership and volunteers from across the community, we have well over 70 people that have come out or volunteered.”

Francis said the Strong Kids Campaign supports about 35 per cent of YMCA's membership base.

“So everything that anyone can do to support us in this event is a huge contributor — it really goes a long way,” she said. “Thank you very much, and I encourage everybody to come out and try these wonderful ribs.”

If you'd like to volunteer, apply through YMCA Sudbury or Downtown Sudbury. In case you know a high schooler looking to put in volunteer hours, teens age 14 and older are welcome.

Learn more about Ribfest on the event's Facebook page.


Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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