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Ribfest on Sparks Street welcomes large crowds this weekend

Hundreds of residents and tourists made their way to downtown Ottawa for the annual Ribfest on Sparks Street.

"It’s just such a family-friendly event with all these great food vendors," said Joyce Mackenzie, carrying three cartons of ribs and treats for her family of four.

The smell of barbecue was hard to miss with rib trucks spread out from Metcalfe Street to Kent Street. Each one, offering up their very best in BBQ sauce, chicken, ribs and pulled pork.

However, it was a slow start to the annual event.

"Our weekday where we had the lunch crowds has changed. It was definitely a weaker Friday this year," said Bernie Gerl, the owner of Camp 31 BBQ. They’ve been part of Ottawa’s Ribfest since its inception. 

Organizers say the hot weather and lack of downtown office workers are contributing factors.

"We're kind of having to rebuild it from the ground up," Kevin McHale, the executive director of Sparks Street BIA, said. "When this festival started, it was a Wednesday to Friday. Last year we saw a switch and we're seeing a bigger than normal kind of lunch on a Saturday, so we're hoping we'll have a good remaining two days."

Bars and restaurants on the pedestrian street are also excited by the influx of weekend visitors. Many are offering up a seat on the patio to those enjoying the BBQ, as long as you pay for a drink.

"It’s a good buzz right now; we’re happy," Steve Chandler, the general manager for Dunn’s Deli, said. 

He says the Saturday crowds are a vast change from just 24 hours ago.

"Not even close. You do it for lunch and it dies off (during the week)," Chandler said. "I was expecting three to four more times business today than the last three days."

Ribfest runs until Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Top Stories

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