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Local News

No decision made on whether to hold Ribfest in Romeoville

Curly Hamilton, the mascot for the Exchange Club of Naperville's Ribfest, high-fives a fairgoer July 4. The festival has drawn thousands each year from outside Naperville.
Curly Hamilton, the mascot for the Exchange Club of Naperville's Ribfest, high-fives a fairgoer July 4. The festival has drawn thousands each year from outside Naperville.

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An official from the Exchange Club of Naperville’s Ribfest said no decision has been made about holding the festival this year in Romeoville as the country deals with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Rick Grimes, the executive director of Ribfest, said the event’s board of directors still is weighing its options about what to do. Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday that he thought organizers of big summer events should consider canceling this year.

With time to decide, Grimes said the organizers are considering holding Ribfest, postponing it until later this year or just outright canceling it.

Ribfest is scheduled to take place from July 2 to 5.

“We don’t feel like there’s any urgency to act at this time,” Grimes said.

“It’s a very careful consideration,” he said.

Grimes said a decision should be made within the next month or so.

Ribfest organizers said in a statement March 13 that they were monitoring information from public officials and health care professionals and were continuing to prepare for the event as scheduled. Grimes said Thursday that the organizers were “still in the same mode.”

The Exchange Club of Naperville announced last year that it would move the festival to Romeoville in 2020 as its usual site in Naperville undergoes construction.

Pritzker said during his daily news conference Thursday that he thought organizers of big summer events need “to think seriously about canceling.”

“From my perspective today, I do not see how we are going to have large gatherings of people again until we have a vaccine, which is months and months away,” Pritzker said. “I would not risk having large groups of people together anywhere.”

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

Romeoville Mayor John Noak said the village has been in regular conversation with event organizers, including those for Ribfest.

Noak said although he understands state officials are busy combating the pandemic on the frontlines, he also would like more guidance on issues such as big summer events.

Grimes said one of the key considerations for Ribfest organizers is its charitable aspect. He said if the event only was held for fun, it might be an easier decision, but Ribfest also is a big fundraiser for nonprofit organizations.

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.

“We feel a great responsibility to the agencies we support,” Grimes said.

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