What We Learned From Ribfest 2018

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Naperville’s Ribfest saw plenty of ups and downs this year but there were a lot of lessons learned.

Though exact numbers have yet to be tallied for this year’s Ribfest, the event’s chairman Joel Carlsen says estimated total attendance was down 20 percent from last year, with roughly 150,000 festivalgoers instead of the typical 200,000.

That was largely due to the one and a half days of inclement weather that forced park closures for safety. But the weather also taught Ribfest volunteers smart safety.

“One of the big takeaways that I think we have in this is we know how to get our people to safety and we can get it done quickly and effectively,” said Carlsen. “The first storm on Thursday afternoon was not something you could see on your weather app as coming, we evacuated the park in 16 minutes [and] we had 50 mph winds and downpour. We know how to close the park and we know how to re-open the park to get things back and running.”

And even though the weather took a toll early on, some new changes made this year were a hit, such as the RFID wristbands to help speed up the lines.

“Our hope was for 10 percent adoption across the park. We actually saw between 17-20 percent depending on the night,” added Carlsen. “So it was really a success in our book as far as usage goes. And the feedback from the Ribfest concertgoers was they loved having the RFID option.”

Though attendance was down, Carlsen estimates that Ribfest still raised significant proceeds to donate to the various charities the event supports.

Another successful addition to Ribfest this year was the change from plastic cups to recyclable cans for the beer tents.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.