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Rusty's BBQ home for RibFest

Port Moody resident to grill grub for first time at hometown festival
Rusty Johnson
Port Moody resident Rusty Johnson of award-winning Rusty's BBQ will be grilling at RibFest this year.

One of the best in the barbecue biz lives in RibFest’s backyard so it’s natural Rusty Johnson should set up his grills at the Port Moody Rotary Club’s festival this weekend.

Fresh off beating 29 other barbecuers from across North America in the inaugural Food Network Fire Masters competition earlier this year, as well as a victory last Sunday at his latest cook-off at the South Sound BBQ Festival in Lacey, Wash., Johnson will be making his first appearance at RibFest.

While the regular ribbers at the festival being held at Rocky Point Park Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be outside, Rusty’s BBQ will be set up in the adult bar section of the Port Moody Rotary Club’s RibFest.

And it took some time for him to get there. The Shaw Cable manager, who has grilled his way to multiple wins in the burger division at the Canadian Food Championships and a world burger barbecuing title in 2015, often was tied up on the BBQ circuit at the time. Now, he has piled up enough prize money to stockpile his grill collection. 

“I’ve been asking for a little bit,” said Johnson as he packed up his gear Monday on his way to serve up grub to 50 or so sports and entertainment celebrities at The Moj Shootout in Kelowna, a charity event being put by TSN 1040 radio personality Bob (The Moj) Marjanovich.

“It’s a big undertaking to be in RibFest. A lot of investment, a lot of equipment. It’s usually one- to three-thousand-dollar setups.”

Al Stjernegaard, 2019 chair of the Rotary’s RibFest committee said since Johnson is local and a world champion, “We’re pleased to have him as a participant.” The committee decided to put Rusty’s BBQ in the bar because the rib valet service it ran from there was kept running off its feet.

“That’s a very busy activity so we’re putting Rusty in the bar to offload some of the service in the bar area,” said Stjernegaard.

“That’s cool,” said Johnson of being in the bar. “It’s a little different, little unexpected. Nobody knows how it’s going to work. Maybe I’m the busiest, maybe not.”

The five regular returning ribbers are Boss Hog’s (London, Ont.), Gator BBQ (Port Dover, Ont.), Misty Mountain BBQ (Hinton, Alta.), Prairie Smoke and Spice (Regina), and Smoke and Bones Southern Style BBQ (North Vancouver). Joining Johnson as a newcomer is Grizzly BBQ from Vancouver Island. Stjernegaard figures with the additions, they won’t run out of meat and food like last year.

Also making its debut at RibFest is The Very Good Butchers, a plant-based butchery that organizers hope will allow vegans and the like to join in the fun, which includes lots of entertainment.

“We get some feedback that in every group of people, there’s always one person that prefers a non-meat item. So that person felt they couldn’t come, or couldn’t eat when they got to the park,” said Stjernegaard. “We’re hoping to be inclusive of our vegan sharing customers. We want to be inclusive and not exclusive.”

This is RibFest’s fifth year of serving up meats and more. 

“We’ve grown every year. We’ve grown in the number of people who attend and revenue, so we’re anticipating being even bigger,” said Stjernegaard, who is still looking for volunteers to work the 1,500 shifts needed to be filled over the three days.

For the first time, organizers have called the festival’s early hours Local’s Day, which runs Friday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and features $5 bar tokens and $3 off pork rib entree items from any ribber.

Sponsored in part by The Tri-City News, RibFest runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free and the city will run a free shuttle between the Port Moody recreation complex and Rocky Point Park every half hour. More information: