The 33rd annual event returns after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. For the first time since 2019, the Exchange Club of Naperville is hosting Ribfest and doing it at a new location, the DuPage Event Center and Fairgrounds in Wheaton.
New this year, is no entry fee! Visitors will need tickets for the individual concerts where they will enter through separate interior gates. The much-anticipated lineup kicked off last night with Lee Greenwood, Clay Walker, and Elle King. Other performers this weekend will be CandleBox, Brett Eldredge, 7th Heaven and many more. Toby Keith was initially slated to be a part of the lineup, but he canceled days before the event after revealing he had started treatment for stomach cancer.
Once again, attendees will be able to enjoy the rides at the carnival as it also makes its return this year.
“We have a carnival as we’ve had in the past. It is Fantasy Amusements this year, which is a different organization that we teamed up with. They actually work with the fair, so they were familiar with the plan, the site, and the layout.”
Ribfest features seven ribbers this year with a mix of returning restaurants and chefs as well as new ones. One of the returnees is Johnson’s BBQ, owned by Dan Johnson.
“I’ve been coming here since the beginning, the inception of the Ribfest. Basically, more than 20 years, but the bottom line is we come out here and we cook a special way. If you look around, there’s only one black pit out there. It’s the old smoker style. We don’t use electric ones. We use the ones that you have to deal with the smoke.”
Helping a Cause
Not only is Ribfest a fun time of the year for all, but it’s also a fundraiser for a cause and the event committee is thrilled to be able to continue their mission again.
“It just feels amazing because we’ve given back over $18 million to the local communities and the nonprofits. That’s why we started Ribfest and obviously, it grew every year. Now, to have this venue and being able to get back to giving back, it’s what our club is about, so it feels amazing.”
The festivities will run through Monday.
For Naperville News 17, I’m Josiah Schueneman.