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updated: 6/30/2014 2:46 PM

Naperville's Ribfest offers 'music, families, fun, food'

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  • Barbecue ribs will be the focus July 3 to 6 in Naperville as the Exchange Club hosts the 27th annual Ribfest in Knoch Park.

       Barbecue ribs will be the focus July 3 to 6 in Naperville as the Exchange Club hosts the 27th annual Ribfest in Knoch Park.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • "Ribber Row" at Ribfest in Naperville will include 12 vendors selling barbecue favorites.

      "Ribber Row" at Ribfest in Naperville will include 12 vendors selling barbecue favorites.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Find a spot on the lawn at Knoch Park in Naperville and sample barbecue from 12 ribbers, Mexican food for the first time this year, or treats from 17 other food vendors.

      Find a spot on the lawn at Knoch Park in Naperville and sample barbecue from 12 ribbers, Mexican food for the first time this year, or treats from 17 other food vendors.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Ribs will be on the menus of a dozen vendors and in the bellies of thousands of visitors when Naperville's 27th annual Ribfest opens Thursday near downtown.

Sponsored by the Naperville Exchange Club, the fest -- one of the largest in the region -- runs from July 3 through 6 in Knoch Park at Martin Avenue and West Street.

Organizers have planned the festival's first Hispanic Day for Saturday, July 5, launched a mobile app for iPhone users, scheduled performances by 45 musicians and gotten their matching Ribfest shirts ready.

"Yes, it's still Ribfest," Don Emery, a longtime Exchange Club member and Ribfest spokesman, said. "It's still going to be music and families and fun and food."

The park will be open from noon to 10 p.m. each day, and admission is $15 for everyone 12 and older. Organizers said Ribfest aims to offer something for every festivalgoer without straying too far from the meat that gave the event its name.

"We're very careful about balancing and making sure this is still a rib event," Emery said. "But some people can't or won't eat ribs, so what else do you have?"

The answer: Frozen bananas, blooming onions, crabcakes, egg rolls, gyros, pizza, fries and, this year, Mexican food.

Sergio's Cantina will be sending a crew from its restaurant in Geneva for the first time. Emery said the fest will offer Mexican food to better welcome Hispanic visitors -- or anyone with a taste for tacos or tostadas.

Latino bands including Rio Bamba, Viaje, La Obra, Contrabanda and headliner Del Castillo will play from 1:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday on the "Ribber Row" stage in the south side of the park, and announcements will be made in Spanish as well as English, said Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz, who has been working with the Exchange Club to create the first Hispanic Day.

"The committee started noticing that there were a lot of Hispanics coming to the festival," Camacho-Ruiz said. "What they wanted to do was to find a way to embrace them."

The stage that will feature Latino music is larger than the secondary stage has been in years past, Emery said. Others to play there include Beatles tribute band BritBeat at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 3; Torzono Cannon at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 4; and Sonny Landreth at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, July 6.

Proceeds from Ribfest are donated to 52 organizations that work to end child abuse and domestic violence. The festival has raised more than $14 million for those causes since it was founded in 1987.

But what it's all about is 12 ribbers lined up in a row. Booths with names like Armadillo's, Desperado's, Mojo's and Smokin' Joe's. Purveyors of barbecue with shelves full of awards all specially chosen for their sauces, their spices, their signature grilling procedures and the secrets that make their ribs special.

"We're very careful about vetting those vendors and making sure they're well-regarded nationally," Emery said. "These 12 are all national winners and well thought of across the country."

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