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Local News

COVID-19 pandemic forces cancellation of Ribfest in Romeoville

Curly Hamilton, mascot of Naperville Ribfest, high-fives a fair-goer July 4 during the event. The festival drew thousands each year from outside Naperville.
Curly Hamilton, mascot of Naperville Ribfest, high-fives a fair-goer July 4 during the event. The festival drew thousands each year from outside Naperville.

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The Exchange Club of Naperville announced it has canceled its annual Ribfest this year due to safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year was supposed to have been the first time the festival was scheduled in Romeoville. The festival was to take place between July 2 and July 5.

The pandemic has forced the cancellation of several large summer events as more than 4,000 Illinois residents have died from COVID-19.

Gov. JB Pritzker's stay-at-home order has also prohibited gatherings of 10 people or more.

Under the governor's "Restore Illinois" plan, large festivals wouldn't be permitted until its fifth stage, when either an effective treatment is available or a vaccine is developed, which experts say could take a year to 18 months or more.

Rick Grimes, the executive director of Ribfest, said such a timeline just wouldn't work for this year.

"It became clear for some time that unless something dramatically changes, there was not going to be an opportunity to (hold the event)," he said.

Last month, Pritzker said he thought organizers of big summer events needed "to think seriously about canceling."

Ribfest organizers said the event has attracted about 150,000 people in recent years.

"It's just too big of an event," Grimes said.

Still, Grimes said organizers are looking forward to holding Ribfest in Romeoville in 2021. He added that the Exchange Club of Naperville will refund those who had already purchased tickets to this year's festival.

The Exchange Club of Naperville announced last year it would move Ribfest to Romeoville as its usual site in Naperville undergoes construction.

Grimes added that Ribfest's organizers are still looking for opportunities this year to raise money for the charities they support.

Since the first Ribfest was held in 1988, the Exchange Club of Naperville has raised more than $17 million for agencies focused on combating abuse and domestic violence.

Musical artists like Nelly and Jesse McCartney were scheduled to perform at Ribfest this year.

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