Uncertainty over COVID-19 regulations causes Ribfest cancellation

Uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the cancellation of Ribfest for the second year in a row, organizers announced Tuesday, pointing to concerns over how changing conditions could affect the popular Fourth of July celebration in what would have been its first run in Romeoville.

The Exchange Club of Naperville previously released plans to move forward with a modified version of the 33rd annual festival, scheduled for July 1-4 at its new venue, Romeoville's Deer Crossing Park. But after assessing the COVID-19 environment over the last few months, event organizers decided they could not “reasonably guarantee health, safety and success for such a large-scale public event that occurs in the early portion of the summer festival schedule,” according to a news release.

The timing of Ribfest makes it susceptible to the instability of capacity limits and other regulations, officials said, prompting the Exchange Club and the village of Romeoville to again pull the plug on one of the suburbs' largest festivals.

“This extremely difficult decision comes after much deliberation about any possibility of presenting the family fun, philanthropy, dining and music throughout Independence Day weekend that have become synonymous with ‘Ribfest' for thousands of attendees every year,” organizers said in the news release.

Renovations to its longtime venue, Knoch Park in Naperville, caused Ribfest to relocate after the 2019 season. Last year's festival would have been the first near Romeoville's village hall and recreation center but was canceled due to the pandemic.

Exchange Club and Romeoville officials will now begin “optimistic planning” for 2022, the news release says.

Known for its national rib vendors, musical concerts, carnival and fireworks show, Ribfest serves as a fundraiser for charities working to end child abuse and domestic violence. The Exchange Club has donated more than $17.5 million toward those causes over the last three decades.

“We are, of course, greatly disappointed that circumstances have left us unable to responsibly and in good conscience hold Ribfest this year, or put our funding or any future Ribfest at risk,” 2021 Ribfest Chairman Bob Black and Exchange Club of Naperville President Jerry Kochurka said in a joint statement.

In lieu of this year's ticket sales, information about making a donation and other opportunities to support the organization's mission is available on the Ribfest website.

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