Exchange Club Of Naperville’s Ribfest May Move To Wheaton

Exchange Club Of Naperville’s Ribfest May Move To Wheaton 2
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The Exchange Club of Naperville’s Ribfest may be roaming to a new home.

The popular summer festival, which ran in Naperville for 32 years. is looking to move to the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton for 2022.

Initial Approval

On Tuesday the DuPage County Public Works Committee gave a unanimous informal consensus to allow the event to move forward, subject to coordination with the DuPage County Election Division in regards to early voting.

Organizers are looking to hold the event from June 17 through June 20, coinciding with Father’s Day weekend and the Juneteenth holiday. Early voting for the June 28 primary is expected to be taking place at the fairgrounds from sometime in May up to election day. The committee wants to be sure that would not be impeded by Ribfest.

If all goes according to plan though, the move could have great logistical benefits for the festival, according to Beverly Schafman with the Exchange Club of Naperville. “They’ve been putting on the DuPage County Fair successfully for years, which, the footprint’s similar,” Schafman said. “They have concerts, they have carnivals, you know, so it’s a really good fit logistically. They have water, they have parking, the parking is amazing.”

More Approvals Needed

This approval is just one step in the process: organizers still need to get permits for the event and the go ahead from the City of Wheaton.

“They kind of wanted to make sure the county is on board with this before they, they issue the gathering permit for this event because of the magnitude, ” said Tim Harbaugh, deputy director for facilities at DuPage County.

Estimates show that typically about 15,000 people per day attend Ribfest. Members of the public works committee noted that the DuPage County Fair usually has about 20,000 per day, so it was a number that could be accommodated.

The group also noted that traffic flow and an emergency response plan would need to be considered, as well as an increased security presence. But overall, they agreed that it was a good fit for the space, and applauded the charitable aspect of the event, with all proceeds donated back to the community to local charities, particularly agencies focused on eliminating child abuse and domestic violence, along with community service. NCTV17 is one of the recipients.

According to a report by the Daily Herald, Ribfest organizers have submitted a special event permit and liquor licensing application to Wheaton officials, as per City Manager Mike Dzugan. The Exchange Club of Naperville has not yet commented on the potential move.

Previously Canceled

Ribfest was canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic. It had its final nights in Naperville’s Knoch Park in 2019, and was set to move to Romeoville that following year due to construction projects at Knoch Park. But COVID-19 changed those plans. Last year event organizers made a pitch to the Naperville Park District to bring the event back to Naperville at the Frontier Sports Complex, but that request was rejected.

“Did I want it to stay in Naperville? Yes,” Schafman said. “But there’s no viable venue in Naperville, unfortunately, so if we want to have a successful event, we had to look for a festival site. And I hope [Napervillians] join us.”

About Ribfest

As per its name, Ribfest offers a wide range of food vendors with ribs being the featured food, and the center of a competition during the event. Ribfest also has carnival rides, family fun, and live entertainment, with big-name musical acts bringing in a large portion of ticket sales.

Naperville News 17’s Kim Pirc reports.

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