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Pandemic claims Port Moody's popular RibFest

This was to be the sixth year for the popular event, that also raises money for Port Moody Rotary Club to support programs and community organizations
The cries of barkers beckoning hungry meat-eaters to smokey barbecue pits at Rocky Point Park have been silenced after organizers announced the event's cancellation on Thursday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can go ahead and use your paper dinner napkins.

That is if you can find any at all amidst shortages of paper products at most grocery stores.

Port Moody’s RibFest has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The annual celebration of barbecued meat slathered with sticky sauce was scheduled for July 17 to 19 at Rocky Point Park.

Ian MacPhail, the past president of the Port Moody Rotary Club that stages the event, said with continuing recommendations from British Columbia’s chief medical officer to discourage large gatherings of people this summer so transmission of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is minimized, “it just didn’t make sense” to carry on. He said the organizing committee had hoped to hold out until June 1 at the latest to make a final decision.

“But it felt like we were pushing a rock up a hill,” MacPhail said of their earlier optimism, adding the closures and struggles of so many local businesses also made it difficult for the group to solicit their support for the event.

The cancellation will also mean fewer funds available to various community organizations and projects the Port Moody Rotary Club supports with money raised from the event. 

MacPhail said last year’s RibFest collected more than $100,000 that supports the group’s community grants program, and organizations like Camp Jubilee, the Amanda Todd Foundation, Eagle Ridge Hospital, and the Summer Sundays concert series.

“It will force us to take a hard look at where we spend money,” MacPhail said.

He added while Rotary has already committed to funding some projects, “it will mean less” for new initiatives.

A highlight of Port Moody’s summer calendar since it first started in 2015, RibFest has attracted thousands of hungry meat-eaters from around Metro Vancouver to feast on the charred offerings of some of North America’s top grillers, including Port Moody’s Rusty Johnson. The champion grillmaster made his debut at last year’s event and his food was so popular he was planning to order a new, larger grilling rig so he could make even more meat to keep up with demand.

“We wanted to come back bigger and better,” he said, adding those plans are now on hold.

MacPhail said the ever-increasing list of summer event cancellations is “surely sad.” But, he added, “It’s really important to do the best we can to limit things.”

MacPhail said RibFest will return in 2021, with July 16 to 18 already circled on his calendar.

“With an extra year of planning, we will be back better than ever,” he said.