CW’s Blues and Ribfest to return this summer

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Rick Palsgrove
Petey Marshall of Off the Bone BBQ cooks up a variety of meats for hungry festival visitors at a past Canal Winchester Blues and Ribfest.

Music and the delicious messiness of a meaty barbecued ribs are an irresistible combination that awaits visitors to Destination:Canal Winchester’s downtown Blues and Ribfest which returns this summer after a two-year hiatus.

The event is a two-day summer street celebration, held the last Friday and Saturday of July and features live blues music, the iconic ribs along with a wide variety of non-rib food options, children’s activities, tented dining areas, and a beer and wine garden for guests age 21 and over.

First held in 2010, this year’s festival will be held July 29 from 5-11 p.m. and July 30 from noon to 11 p.m. It was last held in person in 2019, but put on hold due to the COVID pandemic.

“We had truly hoped to host the event in 2021, but due to the health concerns, costs and planning time required to bring this event to the people of Canal Winchester, we had to make a decision, one way or another, by March of 2021,” said Destination: Canal Winchester Executive Director Karen Stiles. “By this time, performers wanted an iron clad commitment—and a non-refundable deposit—as did national rib vendors. COVID numbers were just beginning to rise again, and while we hoped they would decline as warm weather approached, we had no way of knowing if this would happen.”

Stiles said the longer organizers waited to decide whether or not to hold the event once scheduled, the harder it was for vendors and performers to book other venues if the ribfest was cancelled.

“Those who have attended the Canal Winchester Blues and Ribfest, know that it is packed and people come from all over the country to attend,” said Stiles. “Additionally, our event is not a gated event, so we had no way of controlling the number of attendees. We typically, in a day and half, bring in approximately 35,000 people from all over the country. Our entertainers and rib vendors also travel all over the country, including areas where there were no COVID restrictions. We had to, out of concern for the health of the people in our community and respect for our performers and food vendors, cancel.”

Although COVID is still a concern this year, organizers feel they can move forward this year since many people are vaccinated and boostered as well. Stiles said, in many cases, people, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, are wearing masks to protect themselves and others and she feels certain many will continue to do so at the 2022 event.

“Some of those who regularly attend will decide to stay home this year, and we understand that also. But for those who attend this year, they will see the 2022 Canal Winchester Blues and Ribfest the event they know and love,” said Stiles.

Organizers start planning their next festival soon after the conclusion of the previous event.

It takes approximately a year to pull together an event as large as the Blues and Ribfest and there are many moving parts. Stiles began working on the 2022 event in late September of 2021.

Radiating out from the intersection of High and Waterloo streets, the Canal Winchester event is Ohio’s only blues and rib festival. It draws people from around the state to listen to live music on multiple stages and feast on award-winning ribs, along with traditional and non-traditional festival food.

“This event not only gives the people of our community and surrounding communities something wonderful to do, but it brings people in to Canal Winchester who may or may not have ever come to Canal Winchester,” Stiles said. “It exposes, particularly those in Central Ohio, to our fantastic restaurants and shops and to the wonderful people in our community. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been told by those who aren’t from Canal Winchester how much they enjoy our little city and the people here.”

While it is still early in the process, as the Blues and Ribfest committee begins to lock in the list of 2022 entertainers, rib and other food vendors, information will be available at www.bluesandribfest.com.

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