By Linda Dillman
Hungry for barbecue ribs while listening to live blues music?
Journey no further than Canal Winchester on July 28 and 29 for the city’s annual Blues and Ribfest.
Held on the last Friday and Saturday in July, the free festival takes place throughout the downtown on July 28 from 5-11 p.m. and July 29 from noon to 11 p.m.
High Street will be closed from Columbus Street to Mound Street and Waterloo Street from Trine to Washington. Public parking is available behind the city’s municipal building and off of Washington Street on Towing Path Alley.
According to organizer and Destination:Canal Winchester Executive Director Karen Stiles, street parking is also available in addition to many churches offering parking for a fee.
“Handicap parking is available on West Waterloo past Washington Street to those with handicap plates or placards,” said Stiles. “Visitors can go to www.bluesandribfest.com for parking information as the event draws near.”
New this year is the DORA, Canal Winchester’s new Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in Old Town, which was enacted by the city council earlier this year.
The district, which encompasses the festival area, “affords visitors the opportunity to grab an adult beverage from the fan-cooled festival beer garden or from any of the restaurants/bars within the DORA district and grab a seat in front of either of our stages and enjoy their favorite blues artist,” according to Stiles.
Musical artists include returning favorites such as Noah Wotherspoon, Joanna Connor and Carlise Guy and the NuBlu Chicago Band. New to the Blues and Ribfest are musicians Too Slim and the Taildraggers and Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling, as well as many others.
“We encourage everyone to visit our website for the full line up of entertainment and times,” said Stiles.
A pair of stages provide free, non-stop live music. The main stage is on South High Street and a second stage is located at Stradley Park next to the beer garden.
There is something for everyone at the festival. A large Kids Zone includes inflatables, balloon art, face painting, and pony rides. The music appeals to all ages, young and old alike, and the large variety of food offerings—from ribs to burgers, ice cream, snow cones, bratwurst, and gigantic cream puffs—should satisfy hungry stomachs.
“We will have five national rib vendors and twenty non-rib vendor food trucks,” said Stiles. “All of our favorites are returning like Schmidt’s, Amish Donuts, and Bubba’s Shaved Ice and we have a few new vendors this year that are sure to please.”
Pitting pitmaster against pitmaster, a team of judges selects the first, second and third place rib winners. Anyone attending the festival can stop by the information booth and place their vote for the People’s Choice award.
In 2022, following a pandemic induced hiatus, crowds flocked to the event. Stiles said it was clear last year that everyone was ready for the return of the Canal Winchester Blues and Ribfest.
“From the moment the festival started on Friday afternoon until the last band left the stage Saturday night, we were packed,” said Stiles. “Though we wondered if some would still be hesitant to attend a festival last year, it didn’t stop the blues and rib lovers from coming. Our attendance was consistent with past years. We average around 33,000 people each year.”
Visit www.bluesandribfest.com for information about the event.