Toby Keith cancellation forces Ribfest organizers to scramble for replacement
Ribfest was on track to make a tasty return Friday following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But on Sunday, Ribfest organizers received news of country star Toby Keith and his ongoing treatment for stomach cancer. Keith will be canceling most of his summer engagements -- including his opening night Ribfest concert.
"We've never had a last-minute cancellation like this, but we are committed to our ticketholders and will honor their support for our mission," said Ribfest chairwoman Bev Schafman in a statement. "There may be some fans who were coming only to see Toby, but we're confident they are going to like what we have to offer."
Pat McDonough, Ribfest's marketing and publicity chair, said organizers are "very, very concerned about Toby's health."
McDonough acknowledged that Ribfest organizers were examining many contingency plans. As of Monday afternoon, Ribfest's website carried an announcement that organizers were "actively seeking a replacement for Toby Keith to join Elle King" and that "instructions for refund requests will be available in the future."
The four-day food and music festival moves to a new venue this year at the DuPage Event Center & Fairgrounds in Wheaton.
Ribfest is the major annual fundraiser for the Exchange Club of Naperville, which works to combat child abuse and domestic violence.
"Call it a bump in the road if you will," said McDonough about Keith's cancellation. "People need to remember what's behind this entire effort."
Ribfest's other music headliners are the metal band Halestorm and Candlebox on June 18, Brett Eldredge and Ashley McBryde on June 19 and a slew of local bands including 7th Heaven on June 20.
Ribfest also announced the seven "ribbers" that will be competing in its BBQ competition. These include the Batavia-based Salt Creek BBQ and Uncle Bub's BBQ in Westmont, plus out-of-state competitors such as first-time Ribfest visitor Blazin Bronco BBQ from Port Saint Lucie, Florida.
As with past Ribfests, there is free access the food tents and carnival area, but tickets are required for concerts.
"We're keeping our thoughts and our prayers with Toby, and hope that he gets well," McDonough said. "We've talked about doing some sort of on-site tribute or recognition of what he's going through, but we're not sure what form that will be in."
Location: Exchange Club of Naperville at DuPage Event Center & Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton, (630) 668-6636 or (630) 259-1129, ribfest.net
General festival hours: noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, June 19; noon to 8 p.m. Monday, June 20
Concert gates open: 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18; noon Sunday and Monday, June 19 and 20 -- ticketholders should bring chairs or blankets
General admission: free, but purchases necessary for music headliners and carnival rides
Bands on Friday, June 17: Elle King at 7 p.m.; TBA at 9 p.m.; $45-$195
Bands on Saturday, June 18: Candlebox at 7 p.m.; Halestorm at 9 p.m.; $35-$175
Bands on Sunday, June 19: Alexandra Kay at 3 p.m.; Levi Hummon at 4:30 p.m.; Ashley McBryde at 6 p.m.; Brett Eldredge at 8 p.m.; $45-$195
Monday lineup: Local bands including the headliner 7th Heaven from noon to 8 p.m.; $25-$120
Carnival pricing: $25-$35 for unlimited ride wristbands; $1.25 tickets per ride, or a book of 18 tickets for $20