In Ribfest's wake, Naperville weighing options for special event funding

  • Ribfest's "Last Nights at Knoch" drew crowds during the Fourth of July weekend to Naperville's Knoch Park, where they enjoyed ribs, carnival rides and concerts.

      Ribfest's "Last Nights at Knoch" drew crowds during the Fourth of July weekend to Naperville's Knoch Park, where they enjoyed ribs, carnival rides and concerts. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Uncle Bub's Award Winning BBQ took home all three awards Saturday from the final Ribfest at Knoch Park in Naperville, winning best ribs, best sauce and kids' choice.

      Uncle Bub's Award Winning BBQ took home all three awards Saturday from the final Ribfest at Knoch Park in Naperville, winning best ribs, best sauce and kids' choice. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • The grassy grounds of Knoch Park in Naperville no longer will be the site for the Exchange Club of Naperville's Ribfest, which must move to a new site in 2020, likely Romeoville.

      The grassy grounds of Knoch Park in Naperville no longer will be the site for the Exchange Club of Naperville's Ribfest, which must move to a new site in 2020, likely Romeoville. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/9/2019 4:13 PM

The final Ribfest at Knoch Park in Naperville is in the rearview mirror.

Rick Grimes, executive director of the Exchange Club of Naperville, which puts on the festival, said the event dubbed the "Last Nights at Knoch" was a well-received Fourth of July weekend destination for thousands of concertgoers, carnival riders and rib-tasting foodies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This year was not a sellout or a record crowd, but it was busy, Grimes said. Not a perfect weather weekend -- a little on the hot side with a two-hour closure on Friday because of lightning -- but better than predicted.

Organizers did not release crowd totals or estimated revenue, but they said the event was safe, secure and enjoyable for those who attended. Proceeds go toward programs to prevent child abuse and domestic abuse.

Grimes and other leaders with the Exchange Club now can focus on negotiations to move Ribfest to a new site for its 33rd year. The club has said Romeoville's municipal campus is the likely location for 2020, but officials have not made a formal announcement.

Still, with Ribfest 2019 in the books, the city of Naperville already is looking ahead to how the departure will affect special event funding.

Ribfest this year received $227,000 from the city's Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund to help cover the cost of police, fire and public works services. Money in the fund comes from a 1% citywide food and beverage tax, and a commission helps the city council decide how to distribute it each year.

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The commission on Monday discussed what to do with the grant program next year, when not only will the $227,000 from Ribfest be newly available but so too will the $70,000 that would have gone to Christkindlmarket if the holiday event had decided to stay at Naper Settlement.

The departures of both events mean groups seeking grant assistance next year will be competing for roughly $297,000 more than was available this year.

"We want to leverage the funding we have available to change what kind of events come in through the application process," said Melvin Kim, chairman of the Special Events and Cultural Amenities Commission.

The commission recommended the newly available money be split three ways. One-third could be set aside for new events or initiatives, one-third could help the city more fully fund applications that otherwise would receive only part of what they sought, and the remaining could be dedicated to current events that plan to expand.

While that decision is in the works, applications for next year's special event funding are due Sept. 9.

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