Ribfest has been tied to Naperville since 1988, when the first festival took place on Rotary Hill. The Exchange Club of Naperville moved the event to Knoch Park the next year, giving it space to grow into the massive celebration we know today.
But 2019 could be the last year Naperville hosts the massive festival.
“Some changes that have been required by the park district has made us aware that there are going to be some construction projects that would preclude us from being at this site for 2020 or for subsequent years,” said Rick Grimes, executive director of Ribfest.
The Naperville Park District is redeveloping the park to add more sports facilities, forcing the exchange club to find another site for their biggest fundraiser.
The challenge is finding a site with enough space to fit their large footprint.
“We need the space. We need the room. We have a large event and we need a place that we can fit what we need,” said 2020 Ribfest Chair Bob Black. “We’ve got a lot of uses and a lot of needs. We’ve got to fit our family area. We need an area for the main stage. We have got to fit the places for people to come in and have fun with the ribbers, enjoy the ribs, enjoy the experience.”
Even if Ribfest moves out of Naperville permanently, they still plan on using the event to support the same causes in our community. They’ve raised about $16 million since moving to the current site.
“We will continue the same efforts toward fundraising for the same support of the agencies within this vicinity that we currently allocate funds to toward the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence,” said Black.
Though planning for 2019’s Ribfest is ongoing, after 30 Ribfests at the same site, Grimes said there could be something to commemorate their last year in Knoch Park.
“So as we move closer to the event dates this year, I think it’s very likely that well be doing something to recognize the fact that this is the last year that we’ll be with this footprint,” said Grimes. “And transitioning hopefully by the time we have our 2019 event we will know exactly where our 2020 event will be.”
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.