There are plenty of behind the scenes changes taking shape for this year's Naperville Exchange Club Ribfest, but organizers say the one that will be most apparent to guests is how they get their beer.
Responding to last year's request by Mayor and Liquor Commissioner George Pradel, Ribfest Chairman Marty Walker said a new system has been implemented to substitute tickets for cash for all liquor sales at the four-day fest that runs July 3-7 in Knoch Park near downtown Naperville.
"We've made a small investment to install four beer ticket booths in the park and to hire a company to sell the tickets," Walker said. "We're going to be a lot more efficient because we'll have fewer volunteers bumping into each other in the tents and no money will be exchanging hands. We're also getting accountability for the cash, which will be a lot more professional than years past."
The change comes months after 29-year-old Chicago resident Nadia Greenidge pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft of about $5,000 while volunteering at last year's festival.
"We have 4,000 volunteers and it's admittedly hard to keep track of them and make sure they are responsible behind the drink booth and making correct change," Walker said. "After 25 years, it was only a matter of time before things started happening. Hopefully this measure will put an end to any theft issues."
Pradel praised the Exchange Club for getting the system in place.
"We thought it would be better if it was handled by professionals rather than letting people handle the money at the tents. That will avoid people trying to put money in their pocket rather than the apron," Pradel said. "I'm happy about that. It makes everything more professional and that's what we want."
Also new to this year's festival are reduced ticket prices, a new hotline for questions, and dining tents in both the north and south sections of the park.
"We're really excited about the reduced prices and the fact that we're able to make them consistent, rather than a different price for each day," Walker said. "So this year you pay $15 at the gate or $12 online, no matter which day you go. And from noon to 2 p.m. July 4 through 7, you can get into the park for $10."
Proceeds from Ribfest benefit charities aimed at preventing domestic violence and child abuse.