It was my great pleasure to be at the 4th Annual Labour Day Weekend Rib Fest at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington, Ontario, with hosts The Downchild Blues Band; Canada's premier blues band for over 30 years. There was so much good food and music there it wasn't funny. All the BBQ'd food there was impeccable and prepared with care. Knowledge of what makes a good, BBQ flavored cookout was apparent at every booth. Familiar faces like Ol' Camp 31, from Alabama, were a welcome sight. Their BBQ sauce is thick as molasses and generously applied to the slow-cooked meat on the huge open grill. For those addicted to their culinary expertise they have a BBQ restaurant at 22 Paris Rd. in Paris, Ontario, while still being headquartered in Alabama. Their homemade baked beans are great too! A slight maple flavor, and excellent!
All the food concessions taking part in the Rib Fest were excellent, with minor variances in taste and style. The corn, fresh from a farmer's field was dipped in a pot of melted butter - the baked potatoes were also a welcome treat with mounds of sour cream heaped on them! Kentucky Smokehouse from Naperville, a suburb of Chicago; served up some tender grilled chicken - their BBQ sauce blew me away! Billy Bones BBQ from Sanford, Michigan had some hot tangy ribs and pulled pork on a kaiser. Uncle Sam's from Albuquerque, N.M. featured a huge Uncle Sam face on a banner, looking down admiringly at the hungry crowd converging on the huge outdoor grill. These boys obviously like to travel! Local faves included Turtle Jack's and Jamie Myers' Jake's Grill & Oyster House, both from Burlington and The Purple Pig from downtown Toronto, at 1 Richmond St. W.
Downchild and other bands were playing all weekend long at this popular, annual four-day event. While I was sitting on the grass watching Downchild's vocalist/harp player, Chuck Jackson singing "All that Matters" featuring Mr. Downchild, Donnie Walsh's excellent slides and leads, I was continuing my feast of ribs 'n chicken from other noteworthy Fest regulars such as Bibb's BBQ from Naples, Florida, and Ruben Riley's Bad Wolf BBQ who's headquartered in the kitchen of The Silver Dollar Room in Toronto -- famous for world-class blues performers from Chicago, Louisiana and Texas. Their food's a big draw too -- understandably! Downchild plays there often. Their impeccable bassist, Gary Kendall books all the excellent blues acts they feature. Ruben's full-sized wolf figure in human clothes standing outside his booth added some humorous thrills, especially for all the kids there with their parents! This Fest is a great place to take the family!
Downchild wove it's bluesy magic under a beautiful, cloudless, starry sky for over two enjoyable hours. All the while I had a chance to quench my thirst with ice cold lemonade made right before my eyes, courtesy again of Ol' Camp 31, who provided a much-needed lemonade stand ideally located where visitors at all the superb BBQ booths can get some refreshments. At one point I saw 31's owner, Larry Murphy hanging out at another vendor's booth, which reflects the small-town friendliness in the atmosphere at these Rib Fests. Much like what I've seen at outdoor Nostalgia shows in the U.S. and Canada.
Big Joe Turner's "TV Mama" was high-energy rockin' blues all the way through. Chuck's vocals were rousing, and perfectly complimented by Gary's bass pulsations, Mike Fonfara's keys bewilderment, Tyler Burgess' drumming wonderment, and of course Donnie's always incredible leads, slide and harp playing. That tune really moves along and is one of my all time favorites. Some slow blues was dedicated to Downchild co-founder, the late Hock Walsh, who's sadly missed. On an upbeat note, the avid blues fans wouldn't let Downchild go without hearing more of their familiar and enjoyable blues classics. Coming on like a thunderstorm the band rocked it up real good with some more rousing blues that left the crowd's insatiable appetite for good blues fulfilled. However, Donnie, the consummate performer, who can't say no to entertaining an appreciative audience, stayed on stage when the others had left, playing some really rousing harp reminiscent of the late Sonny Terry's hog callin' harp rants. Another great bluesman, James Cotton got Donnie started on harp in the first place. I guess his lessons did him some good! How could they not? He learned from the best! In the same light, all of us at the Labour Day Weekend Rib Fest ate the best outdoor BBQ'd food around! I'm already looking forward to next year!
Ribfest Schedule - links to sites, dates, entertainment, etc
Canada Day Weekend, June 27 to July 1, 2003
Centennial Park, Etobicoke, Ontario
The Rotary Club of Etobicoke, Ontario
Scarborough, Ontario Aug. 1 to 4, 2003
Visit Etobicoke's Ribfest in July and Scarborough's in August!
Rotary Presents other Ribfests in:
Spencer Smith Park
Labour Day Weekend 2003
For more Ribber and Recipe information you can follow these links:
Canadian Barbecue Smokers Association
Barbecue'n On The Internet - Home of Barbecue, Barbeque & BBQ!
Twin Cities Ribfest July 23, 2003 - July 27, 2003 Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Blueberry Art Festival July 25, 2003 - July 27, 2003 Ely, MN, USA. ...
** google.ca or google.com searches for Ribfest U.S.A. will yield more Ribfest locations and info
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