Ribfest pulled from summer menu

By Jack McCarthy Chronicle Media

Aerial view of the crowd at one of the 2019 Ribfest’s musical performances during the festival’s heyday prior to COVID-19 cancellations and movement to a new home. (File photo)

Ribfest has been pulled from this summer’s festival menu. 

Organizers of the longtime food and music fixture, which originated in Naperville in 1988, have suspended the once-leading Chicago area summer event. 

Ribfest’s future also appears uncertain. 

“The Exchange Club of Naperville has decided to suspend Ribfest operations until further notice,” the club said in a statement on its website. “We would like to thank all the patrons who came through our gates and our great sponsors who have helped us give back $22 million to the community since 1986.” 

The Daily Herald first reported that the club had never planned for a 2024 Ribfest. Emy Trotz, identified as the Exchange Club president and Ribfest organizer, was contacted by the Herald and also told the Chicago Tribune that a 2024 event was not possible. 

For more than three decades, Ribfest has been the chief fundraiser for the Exchange Club and efforts to combat child abuse and domestic violence, and to strengthen families. The Exchange Club said it has donated proceeds to more than 50 non-profit organizations. 

A longtime July 4 fixture at Naperville’s Knoch Park where it drew thousands of attendees, the food and entertainment event had been scheduled to move to Romeoville but was called off in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

It returned in 2022 with a mid-June event at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. In 2023, Ribfest remained in Wheaton but was moved to September for a three-day event. 

The Tribune also reported that DuPage Fairgrounds officials said they had not been contacted about 2024, which would have been Ribfest’s 35th festival. 

In peak years, Ribfest attracted more than 20 ribs vendors as well as attendance in excess of 200,000 for the multi-day event. In 2023, just seven businesses had operations on site. 

Big name entertainment was a main draw for attendees with lineups over the years that featured artists like Sheryl Crow, Heart, Hootie & the Blowfish, Billy Idol, Los Lobos, REO Speedwagon and Steven Tyler. 

While the Exchange Club’s home page offered the notice canceling the 2024 event, the group’s other social media sites have been inactive. The last Facebook post came in August 2023. The last postings on X were in 2022 and there have been no Instagram posts since 2019.  

The Ribfest website, www.ribfest.net, encouraged visitors to check back for any updates.  

“Please look for more information on this site for any other developments as it will have the most updated information,” according to a statement on the site’s home page.