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Drive-thru ribs and poutine to go: Festival organizer wants to keep 2020 events going
A ban on all festival permits in Ottawa until Aug. 31 is putting the future of Ribfest in doubt, but the organizer says he has an idea to keep it going. (File Photo)
OTTAWA -- The savoury scent of barbecued ribs is a sign of summer in Ottawa, but with all festivals cancelled until August 31, that sizzling smokehouse scent may not waft over the city this year.
That is, unless the organizer of Capital Ribfest and Ottawa Poutinefest gets his way.
Feature Festivals director Les Gagne tells Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, he wants to make the festival a drive-thru affair.
- LISTEN NOW: Ribfest and Poutinefest hope a new format will keep their 2020 events alive during pandemic
"We were expecting things to not necessarily go the way we have been doing them for the last umpteen years, at least until Labour Day weekend," he said. "We were in the process of proposing a Poutinefest-to-go or a Ribfest drive-thru. We're going to continue to build those types of festival formats with the hopes that as things become a little more relaxed we might have a chance to unveil those over the next few months, with some good luck."
Gagne says the idea he's proposing is setting up rib cooks in a parking lot, and give people the option to drive up to their favourite rib team and order food.
"People would pick their lane, if you will, depending on what rib team they want to visit," he said. "We'd follow all the guidelines. You'd have a car full of people from the same household. They would go to their favourite rib team and order their food and then somebody with a mask and gloves would bring them their food and then they would go on their merry way.
"It's not the ribfest we all want to enjoy but this is at least a good Plan B, with the hope we can go back to a normal situation next year."
Gagne says the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting many livelihoods, but he accepts cancelling large events is the right thing to do.
"The short version: it just sucks," Gagne said. "It's been tough. I realize we have to do what's right and be vigilant but it's really hurting a lot of people's livelihoods. I know a lot of the vendors that we work with across Canada are losing a lot of their income."
Gagne said he pitched the idea to the City of Ottawa Thursday morning.
"One of the things that we're challenged by is what the province has outlined. If they're mandating a limit of five people gathering, that sort of trumps the situation for the City of Ottawa," he said. "As they relax that restriction, it makes it a lot more feasible to look at a Ribfest drive-thru or a Poutinefest-to-go."
Capital Ribfest typically runs over the Civic Holiday long weekend in August, and Gagne says he hopes that can still be possible. It all depends on the Ontario government, but he believes, should the word come that gatherings can be larger, he will have a ribfest ready to go.
"We pretty much have everything ready to go so we have the ability to turn this around very quickly," Gagne said. "If these restrictions change, we're pretty confident we can do a quick turnaround."
For Poutinefest, which is currently scheduled for Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 at Ottawa City Hall, Gagne's idea is to have people order their food in advance and pick it up similar to take-out at brick-and-mortar restaurants now, with physical distancing and directional lines. There would be no seating, live entertainment, or beer garden.