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updated: 7/1/2013 5:28 PM

Naperville's Ribfest sticks with winning formula

Other than a few tweaks, organizers of Naperville's annual Fourth of July blowout are sticking with their winning formula

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  • As Ribfest returns to Naperville's Knoch Park this week, families will find deals during Family Fun Time, which offers reduced adult admission and deals on meal prices from noon to 3 p.m. daily.

       As Ribfest returns to Naperville's Knoch Park this week, families will find deals during Family Fun Time, which offers reduced adult admission and deals on meal prices from noon to 3 p.m. daily.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer, JUNE 2012

  • All 13 rib vendors -- a mix of locals and traveling ribbers -- will be grouped together on the Ribfest grounds to make it easier for eaters to sample a variety.

       All 13 rib vendors -- a mix of locals and traveling ribbers -- will be grouped together on the Ribfest grounds to make it easier for eaters to sample a variety.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer, JUNE 2012

  • Naperville Mayor George Pradel will be part of a panel of judges who will choose Ribfest's Best Ribs and Best Sauce on Saturday.

      Naperville Mayor George Pradel will be part of a panel of judges who will choose Ribfest's Best Ribs and Best Sauce on Saturday.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the headliners for Thursday, July 4. The headliners are Casey James and Love and Theft.

A long-standing Naperville tradition is about to begin anew as hundreds of volunteers turn Knoch Park at West Street and Martin Avenue into the bustling grounds of the 26th annual Ribfest.

Residents and visitors alike know Ribfest for its spread of competing rib vendors, its Fourth of July fireworks, famous musical acts and family friendly entertainment.

Organizers know not to mess with the core of the fest, which has helped the Naperville Exchange Club raise more than $13 million since 1988 for charities that work to end child abuse.

But this year's event, running Wednesday to Sunday, July 3-7, offers a few changes designed to keep Ribfest affordable, give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the festival and protect proceeds from theft.

Chairman Marty Walker said this year's pricing will be more consistent, although tickets still will be date-specific.

"Last year, every day was a different price and it got people very confused," Walker said. "We cut back on a lot of the expenses so we could afford to charge less at the gate."

Adult tickets are $12 online and $15 at the gate, but a new attraction called Family Fun Time will offer $10 adult admission and $10 passes for unlimited carnival rides between noon and 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Kids younger than 12 always get in free, Walker said, and vendors will offer two half-slab rib dinners for $25 during Family Fun Time as well.

A feature-length documentary shot in 2010 is making its YouTube debut, giving viewers the full story of Ribfest, from setup to the banquet awarding funds to area nonprofit groups that further the Exchange Club's mission of ending child abuse.

Stuart Meyer, a Naperville-based filmmaker and founder of Social Frequency Media Communications, produced the documentary "Behind Ribfest" and said now is a good time to release it online as anticipation for this year's event builds.

"Everyone knows the crowds and the music, but I felt that if people really got into the heart and soul of the mission, there would be even greater support for the fest itself," Meyer said.

"You're certainly going to be entertained and get an all-access pass to see Ribfest in ways you've never seen it before, but even more so to spend some time in the life of one of the beneficiaries."

Attendees looking to buy alcohol will notice one other change this year, Ribfest spokeswoman Julie Lichter said. Tickets will be required for beer and wine purchases in addition to wristbands proving a person is 21 or older.

Beverage tickets will be sold in $10 packages, with each ticket valued at $1 toward purchases of beer and wine priced between $5 and $8. Lichter said beverage tickets will be good throughout the entire fest no matter when a visitor buys them, and they can be used to buy water and other nonalcoholic drinks.

The ticket system will help ensure all money raised can go to charities the Exchange Club supports, Lichter said.

"It's a safeguard for us because of some past experiences that we've had with some volunteers who were using money for their own good and not for the benefit of our event," she said.

Other than these changes, organizers say the community should expect ribs, music and fun as Ribfest approaches.

Ribs

Thirteen vendors will be lined up selling ribs slathered in signature sauces as they aim to win the festival's Best Ribs, Best Sauce and Kids' Choice awards.

"We put all the rib vendors in one location together so when customers go down, they can go from rib vendor to rib vendor and really sample all the different ribs," Lichter said.

The Chicago area is represented by Uncle Bub's BBQ of Westmont, but many rib vendors are of the national-traveling variety, said Lori Klemm, a volunteer in charge of rib judging, which will take place Saturday, July 6, before the park opens to festival-goers at noon. Winners will be announced between 3 and 4 p.m. Saturday.

Music

Main stage headliners top the list of 50 bands playing on two stages throughout the five-day festival.

Styx is the opening night headliner, performing at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 3.

On Thursday, July 4, classic rock cover band ARRA holds the last spot, playing at 7:30 p.m. before a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. Headliners Casey James and Love and Theft play earlier at 3 and 4:30 p.m., respectively.

Friday's headliner is Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators playing at 8 p.m., and on Saturday, July 6, Rick Springfield takes the stage at 8:30 p.m.

Closing out Ribfest's musical offerings is Lynyrd Skynyrd playing at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, July 7, on the main stage.

Getting there

Organizers suggest parking at one of four shuttle locations, as Martin Avenue will be closed from Brom Drive to West Street and Hillside Road will be closed from just west of Washington Street to West Street during Ribfest.

People can catch shuttle buses at Brainard Street and Highland Avenue on the North Central College campus; at the Metra commuter parking lot at 5th Avenue and Washington Street; at Neuqua Valley High School at 95th Street and Skylane Drive; or at Cowlishaw Elementary School at 1212 Sanctuary Lane.

Security will check bags as people enter and the following items are not allowed: coolers, pets, outside food or alcohol, glass containers, fireworks, weapons, tables and large umbrellas. For details, visit ribfest.net.

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