FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — On Saturday, several big events were in full swing and many locals were excited to attend after the latest waves of the pandemic were isolated.
The Energetic County Fair and Ribfest 2022 are the weekend’s top events. The two mix big, well-known names with local loves, whether it’s smoked meat or up-and-coming local country music stars.
Ribfest arrived in Centennial Park Thursday night and ramped up Saturday afternoon with four trucks competing for the best meats and sauces and selling plenty of racks of ribs, chicken and sides.
May Tanko arrived in Fort St. John for work a year ago. She and her family, including husband Travis Wolfe and young daughter, are no strangers to Ribfests, and they’re thrilled to be back.
“This is not a new event for us,” she explained. Her family has also attended Ribfests in the Lower Mainland, where, she notes, the lines are much longer.
“We went pre-covid so it’s nice to see it’s back here for sure.”
Anna Seimova, part of one of the Ribfest ‘rig’ crew, loves what she’s seen from BC so far in Fort St. John and enjoyed the weekend for the weather and the people who join the festival.
“It’s been really, really fun,” she said. “The weather was amazing and the turnout was great.”
The traveling trucks attend many familiar festivals every year, but the meat masters and their staff members tend to notice when people not only enjoy the party, but also help others to do so.
“We all notice that other people have been super nice and sweet and understanding,” Seimova said.
After years of limited events and social distancing to keep the spread of COVID-19 under control, some residents are excited to be back at major events like Ribfest and the Energetic County Fair right in the heart of town.
The fair, after a slightly hectic planning phase, started Thursday evening with music, food trucks, children’s activities and a beer garden and was in full swing Saturday afternoon. Smells of smoke and pungency from carefully perfected meats and sauces wafted from Centennial Park’s 100th Avenue to the gates of the Energetic County Fair.
“It’s really nice that it’s right downtown – I was surprised they had something so big right downtown,” said Richelle Babuick, sitting in the tent at the Energetic County Fair.
Babuick and his best friend, Jordan Fuhr, secured tickets to see Emerson Drive, the festival’s headliner and final act on Saturday night.
“It’s super cool that they’re doing more stuff like that now,” Babuick continued.
Nicole and Morgan Archambeault, whose weekend was “delicious”, according to Nicole, thought of returning tomorrow to try another semi-rigid truck at Centennial Park.
“It’s crazy that it all happens in a weekend,” she said.
“We haven’t had anything for the past two years and now everything, even the boat races at Taylor, is happening at the same time.”
Worries about the continued spread of the virus seemed rare among happy onlookers.
“I’ve never been too paranoid about [COVID-19]”Nicole said.
Neither Babuick nor Fuhr were particularly worried either. “
We are not really [worried]“, Fuhr said.
Live music from local bands, including Rose Prairie Romance and The SweetWater Band, will perform on the Centennial Park stage for Ribfest over the weekend.
Some of these talented local artists and other up-and-coming names, as well as big names in music like Kim Mitchell and Emerson Drive, were also playing at the Energetic County Fair this weekend.
The third day of the fair was opened by the Doig River Drummers who shared ancient songs from their ancestors, the Beaver Tribe. They were followed by Megan Clarance, a young woman with a bright start to her musical ambition who lives in Fort St. John.
Clarance, who spent time in Prince Rupert and Ontario, recently returned to Fort St. John.
“It’s the first time in years that I haven’t been afraid to step up and play,” she said after her set on Saturday afternoon. “I felt at home, I felt really good.”
The weekend events brought together a community after several separate seasons to have fun, eat ribs, listen to good jams from the well-known (and lesser-known), and celebrate a place where these things come together.