FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Saturday saw several big events hit full swing and plenty of locals were excited to attend after the isolation of the pandemic’s last waves.
The Energetic County Fair and Ribfest 2022 are the headlining events of the weekend. Both blend big, well-known names with local loves—whether that be for smoked meat or homegrown up-and-coming country music stars.
Ribfest arrived in Centennial Park on Thursday evening and ramped up for Saturday afternoon with four trucks competing for 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. Her and her family, including husband Travis Wolfe and young daughter, are no strangers to Ribfests, and they’re excited to be back.
“This is not a new event for us,” she explained. Her family has also been to Ribfests in the lower mainland—where, she notes, the lines are far longer.
“We’ve gone pre-covid so it’s nice to see that it’s back here for sure.”
Anna Seimova, part of the team at one of the Ribfest “rigs,” loves what she has seen of B.C. so far in Fort St. John and was enjoying the weekend for both the weather and the people joining the festival.
“It’s been really, really fun,” she said. “The weather has been amazing and the turnout has been great.”
The traveling trucks see plenty of familiar festivals each year, but the masters of meat and their staff members tend to notice when people are not only enjoying the party but helping others do so, too.
“We all notice other people have been super kind 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.
The fair, after a slightly rocky planning phase, began on Thursday evening with music, food trucks, activities for kids, and a beer garden and was in full swing on Saturday afternoon. Smokey, tangy smells from carefully perfected meats and sauces wafted down 100 avenue from Centennial Park to the gates of the Energetic County Fair.
“It’s really nice that it’s right downtown—I was surprised they were going to have something this big right downtown,” Richelle Babuick said, sitting under the tent at the Energetic County Fair.
Babuick and her best friend, Jordan Fuhr, got tickets to see Emerson Drive—the headliner of the festival and last act on Saturday night.
“It’s super cool that they are actually doing more things like this now,” Babuick continued.
Nicole and Morgan Archambeault, whose weekend was “delicious,” according to Nicole, were thinking about returning to try a different rib truck tomorrow in Centennial Park.
“It’s crazy that everything’s going on in one weekend,” she said.
“We’ve had nothing for the past couple years and now everything, even the boat races in Taylor, is happening all at once.”
Concerns about continued spread of the virus seemed few and far between amidst happy event-goers.
“I was never too paranoid about [COVID-19],” Nicole said.
Neither Babuick nor Fuhr were particularly worried either.
“We’re not really [worried],” Fuhr said.
Live music from local bands, including the Rose Prairie Romance and The SweetWater Band, will play at Centennial Park’s stage for Ribfest over the weekend.
Some of these talented local acts and other up and coming names—as well as major names in music like Kim Mitchell and Emerson Drive—were playing at the Energetic County Fair this weekend, as well.
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 at the bright beginnings of her musical ambition who calls Fort St. John home.
Clarance, who has spent time in Prince Rupert and Ontario, recently returned to Fort St. John.
“This is the first time in years that I haven’t felt scared to go up and perform,” she said after her set on Saturday afternoon. “I felt at home, I felt really great.”
The weekend’s events brought a community together after several seasons apart to have fun, eat ribs, listen to great jams from the well-known (and the less-so) and celebrate a place where these things come together.