The 25th anniversary of Canada’s Largest Ribest was going to be a truly special celebration for the Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore.
Over the past 24 years the event has raised over $3.5 Million for local charities, scholarship and international projects. The plans for this year’s event were big and ambitious…then COVID-19 came knocking.
The story of the first drive-thru Ribfest began with a program called “Ribs for Responders”. The idea was to get a few local businesses together to sponsor meal deliveries to frontline workers, local restaurants and local operations such as fire stations, grocery stores, hospitals, long-term care facilities, as well as a local emergency veterinary clinic. Over 300 people were fed in one day! The support of Leggat Auto Group, West End Homebuilders’ Association, The John Trim Group and Utter Morris Insurance Brokers was critical to this success. 
The drive-thru Ribfest was inspired in part by new events, like drive-thru food truck festivals and drive-in concerts that are happening this year. The idea had potential, but the greatest obstacle was getting health department approval. This would be the first event of its kind locally and many COVID-19 restrictions were in place. The club’s experience with the Ribs for Responders program and its track record from 24 years of Rotary Ribfests were key to getting the green light.
The primary focus of the drive-thru Ribfest was ensuring that the event could be executed in a safe and responsible manner. Curb-side pickup, social distancing, gloves, masks were essential to ensure safety.  In true Rotarian fashion, Rotary Burlington Lakeshore’s club members were enthusiastic and supported the idea. A drive-thru Ribfest would be a great way to keep the community engaged, a good fellowship opportunity for the club, and with any luck, a successful fundraiser.
The club had great support from the Burlington (Shopping) Centre, who allowed them to use their parking lot; they also provided online endorsement.  The Ribbers, Camp 31 BBQ, Billy Bones BBQ, Uncle Sam’s BBQ, and Pistol Pete’s Smokehouse, took care of the food and the logistics surrounding it. There were additional sponsors who helped make the event possible, including Cogeco, KD Signs, Jones Thomblison LLP and Utter Morris Insurance. Rotary Club volunteers handled the marketing, primarily through social media, and logistics of moving cars in and out of the parking lot.
July 1st was a beautiful day. The vendors had set up the previous afternoon, so by the time customers arrived at 9:45am, they were all set to serve. The demand was there! By 10:30am a steady line of cars had started to form. Club members welcomed guests, gave instructions, directed traffic, and asked for donations. Almost 2700 cars were served throughout the day and almost $25,000 was raised for the club’s charities!  Rotary Burlington Lakeshore members were able to showcase their ingenuity, desire to help the community and drive to get involved, no matter the obstacle. We have inspired many other clubs to try something to replace their usual fundraising initiatives and keep members involved. The event was a total success!