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Reborn and revitalized, Penticton's Ribfest becomes "Summer Camp" for September 2024

The announcement came in January.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

Ribfest, this city's wild mid-summer ode to the barbecuing carnivore, would be no more. The folks running the show, the Rotary Club of Penticton, simply didn't have the volunteers or the wherewithal to propel it through its tenth year.

But that was then. Now, in April, it appears we may have waved a premature goodbye to all those rib trucks.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

This September, five of them are set to return to Penticton, along with a whole bunch more cool stuff, for a late-summer triple-day waterfront party known as "Summer Camp Rib and Music Festival."

Ribs will be just one part of what looks to be a rather expansive setup at Okanagan Lake Park from Sept. 13 thru Sept. 15 of this year that'll also include copious live and canned music, a wide variety of summery outdoor games (adult sumo wrestling, anyone?) and plenty of spots to grab alcohol-fortified sunny day drinks like margaritas.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

From our best guesstimate, it'll be similar to Ribfest, but on steroids. A summer camp for grown-ups.

We met up with Summer Camp spokesperson and organizer Billie Jo Aasen at Visit Penticton's "TRUE Penticton Tourism Expo" April 7 at the Trade and Convention Centre.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Billie Jo Aasen promotes the event at TRUE Penticton Tourism Expo

And she spilled the beans (a great side dish for ribs, by the way) on what should theoretically be a compelling shoulder season party that's aimed at everyone but particularly the young and young at heart.

Aasen, who lives in the lower mainland but hails from right here in Penticton, runs a Vancouver-based business called The Festival Company that specializes in – you guessed it – festivals. And Summer Camp is their latest.

Indeed, there'll be another Summer Camp before Penticton's. It'll happen in Vancouver this June 20 to 23.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

"There's a wonderful lady here, Jackie Frederick, who came to one of the events we did in Kelowna and said, 'You have to come to Penticton, you have to start doing events there,'" she explained. "And it's funny she suggested Penticton because that's my hometown.

"And Jackie is good friends with Barb Hoolaeff (who chaired Ribfest through Rotary for six years prior to 2023). And Barb said she didn’t think Rotary is doing Ribfest anymore. So I came and met with Tom Tischik (of Visit Penticton) and we looked at what we could do.

"I thought this would be a great opportunity to do a Ribfest facelift, bring in young people, add a bunch of games and make it a Summer Camp."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

Aasen tells us event admission will be by donation, with proceeds headed for a non-profit mental health organization she runs with country music star Dallas Smith called Lifted.

And she believes Summer Camp has what it takes to succeed.

"It's hard when you’re running something that's 100% volunteer-driven, when that's not what you do for a living," Aasen said in reference to Rotary's latter-day Ribfest issues. "But we do this all the time. It's nice to look at this from a different light than Rotary may have.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

"And it's just so exciting for me to come back home and take what I've learned in the big city and apply it here."

According to Aasen, there'll be no shortage of stuff to do.

"We'll have music all day," she said. "Top 40, pop, country…a lot of cover bands. And we’ll have a DJ. There'll be margarita bar, a regular bar, and a bunch of adult summer games. We'll be family-friendly too. We'll have a kids' zone.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

"And of course ribs. We'll have five trucks this year."

One of those trucks will be operated by the aforementioned Barb Hoolaeff, who bought well-known mobile rib biz "Smoke Dem Bones BBQ" a couple years ago and now heads the only female-run rig in BC.

"I'm really happy to see it coming," she told PentictonNow. "Sometimes projects need new blood and I think these girls have that new energy. It'll be a great facelift."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

Hoolaeff also likes the return to Okanagan Lake Park, saying she made an "error" moving the event in 2022 from its long-time home to Skaha Lake Park.

"Okanagan Lake was always the best location for us," she explained. "But I made that error because every four years we had to change parks as we were lowest in seniority amongst us, the Elvis Festival and the Peach City Beach Cruise. It seemed like our only real choice."

Hoolaeff believes the less competitive September time slot will work well, saying it's "the last show of the year for many of the ribbers, who'll want to go out with a bang."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

Travel Penticton executive director Tom Tischik is also a believer.

"I'm excited to see it back again with a fresh new format," he said. "And it's back to its familiar spot at Okanagan Lake Park. It'll do well."

For more info on the Summer Camp Rib and Music Festival, head to the website here. Downloadable tickets will be available at the site as of Tuesday, April 23.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Scene from previous Ribfest

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