An Unpopular Opinion: Is Amherstburg’s Ribfest Really A Good Idea?

If anyone read my piece about a month ago for The Windsor Naysayer which satirized Amherstburg’s town council and mayor’s expenditure on a hilariously lame promotional video starring NFL great Terry Bradshaw. Then you know I may not hold my small town’s decision makers in the highest regard.

Yesterday I went to the Amherstburg Rotary Club’s Ribfest first because I do like barbecue but also because I have a morbid curiosity when it comes to anything that happens in Amherstburg. Now I am not against The Rotary Club in principle, and I am certainly not against ribs or those who work so hard to make them. What I don’t really get is why this event exists in Amherstburg.

From what I can see between Ribfest and Beef in The Burg the Rotary Club has cornered the market on food based summer events in town. If I was writing a humour piece I may accuse them or being some kind of meat pushing cabal, trying to take over the town with the power of animal flesh. But this is not that piece and it’s not like I am talking about the Masons.*

The Rotary Club has great intentions, and I appreciate what they do for people in our community but these kind of fund raising events fall into a weird place for me. Nothing about Ribfest says anything about Amherstburg, it’s half a dozen shrug worthy food stands that don’t originate in Amherstburg, a bunch of subpar bands and hand wash stations of dubious sanitary value. I don’t feel like the town was really represented, to those who came from surrounding areas. We have eateries do we not? About a month ago The Rotary Club of Amherstburg ran Beef In The Burg and now we have Ribfest. Maybe at some point the Rotary Club could help Amherstburg help it’s self by actually promoting local business.

What about local business? We have over a dozen of eateries who during a summer weekend had their business cut into by Ribfest. Amherstburg operates under the conceit that it is a tourist destination, and the summer would strike me as tourist season. With that said, how does running a three day festival in an area of the town with almost no commercial space fall in line with that conceit? It seems as if The Rotary Club has put up an event in direct competition with our local eateries during a season where they should be supported in making as much revenue as they can.

At what point do the revenue generating strategies of charitable organizations come into direct competition with local business. As a community organization with tax exempt status you would think that there would be some kind of synergy struck with local business. Would a “ribfest” that took place at our local eateries which was overseen by The Rotary Club, not be a better way for local charity and local business to support each other? Maybe my idea doesn’t net the Rotary Club as many fundraising dollars but it assures that all of the money for the event stays in Amherstburg.

When it comes to the location of the event I take my biggest umbrage.  As most of you know Ribfest was held at S. Ralph McCurdy Track Complex. This complex is still host to the only regulation football field and track and field facility in the community.  The track complex has been neglected by the town since the construction of United Communities Credit Union Complex** and the Larry Bauer Sports Complex. To me, the town essentially saying we’re going to jettison this facility even though it serves two big purposes which the brand new facility neglected to include***. Does town hall not see that in the dead of summer four days of trailers, tents, and other equipment on the field would cause damage? Or cooking facilities on top of a rubberized track and field surface may not be a great idea?

Upon checking the track complex at noon today, the vast majority of the tents and trailers remained on the field****.  Town vehicles were being used to move some of the large equipment. Are tax payer dollars are being used to help run this event? Did the town offer their equipment and man hours to help with this event or was this part of the rental agreement for the use of the facilities? Did the rotary club pay for the use of the facilities? And what is the cost and benefit of this? Does it behove local government to help support local charity when local charity is in direct competition with local business? For a municipality who claims to be in a budgetary bind should it not allocate it’s limited resources to the service of those who are paying taxes?

These are all questions we can ask our elected officials, our local charitable organization leaders and the local chamber of commerce. Feel free to leave comments with your take.

*You laughed at that, just admit it and move on with your life.

**Paste Sports Complex is a more exciting name than this. All thanks to for the donations, but seriously Ambien Arena couldn’t make me fall asleep faster than United Communites Credit Union Complex. And United and Union in one name it’s like two sweet redundant whips of fairy dust taking me off to the land of nod.  How about the Arena Of United Communties Credit Union Arena, it’s like an Ouroboros of boredom.

***Would it be so crazy of me to ask how exactly those planning the new facility produced a football field which was not the proper surface for football to be played and nobody was fired or at least publicly outed for the screw-up.

****I was not able to obtain a full extent of any damage that may have occurred, but I will post an update later in the evening or tomorrow morning.