They go back to the start.

“Ribfest, when it started 30 years ago, actually started as a Father’s Day weekend event,” said Patrick McDonough, president of marketing and advertising and member of the Exchange Club of Naperville. “So we’re kind of coming full circle by getting back to where we started again on Father’s Day. We’re thrilled about that.

The 33rd Annual Ribfest, hosted by the Exchange Club of Naperville, returns after a two-year hiatus in a new month and location. The 2022 festival runs June 17-20 at the DuPage Event Center & Fairgrounds in Wheaton. The festival runs from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. on June 17 and 18, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 19 and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on June 20.

Although admission to the festival’s concert area requires the purchase of a ticket, there are no entrance fees to access the rib vendors, family entertainment area, carnival and exhibitions.

“The area that will require an entry ticket is the concert hall area,” McDonough said. “There are limited tickets for that. So we encourage people if you’re planning on coming for the concerts, head over to the website and get your tickets now, because those will be going fast.

Scheduled to perform are Elle King and Toby Keith on June 17 and Candlebox and Halestorm on June 18. Father’s Day, June 19, is Country Music Day. The afternoon will feature Alexandra Kay, Levi Hummon and Ashley McBryde, with Brett Eldredge headlining.

“If you like country music, this will be your day,” McDonough said. “This will be where you want to get out early and get a good seat.”

June 20 is Local Band Day, with 7th Heaven headlining.

“Everyone knows 7th Heaven,” McDonough said. “They’ve had a few hit songs, but probably their biggest claim to fame is their famous rendition of ’30 hits in 30 minutes’. It is something to live. It’s something to get up and let your body start moving and dancing and you’ll be dancing for 30 minutes straight. They are great fun.

Plans for a number of other local bands to play were still being finalized at press time.

Concert attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets.

“There won’t be a bad seat in the house,” McDonough said. “Everyone is going to be up front and close.”

Moving the longtime Knoch Park site from Naperville to the County Fairgrounds will provide more space and closer parking for the public. There are fixed toilets, as well as family changing rooms. Gravel surfaces are more accommodating for those using mobility devices, he said.

“Just different gear like this that makes it a lot easier,” McDonough said. “We also appreciate that the fairground space will accommodate barbecue vendors very well. It will be a much bigger and much more open space for people to spread out and sit and enjoy their ribs.

“Frankly, we were a bit crowded in the old space at the time, so we think because there’s so much more space here at the fairgrounds, it’s going to be perfect for vendors,” a- he declared.

Seven rib vendors will be on hand serving award-winning BBQ ribs, pulled pork and BBQ chicken and unique sauces.

“We have some of the old favorites like Armadillo’s (Rib & Que Company) and Texas Outlaw (BBQ) and Uncle Bub’s (BBQ). Some of the familiar old favorites are coming back with us,” McDonough said. “But we also have some new ones that we haven’t had in the past.”

Other participating ribbers are Salt Creek BBQ, Howling Coyote Roadhouse BBQ, Johnson’s BBQ and Blazin Bronco BBQ. A number of non-BBQ food vendors will also be present at the festival, along with beer tents and a wine tasting area.

A carnival will offer unlimited ride wristbands for purchase. Next to the carnival is a family entertainment area with a variety of activities.

“We actually have a separate confined building,” McDonough said. “We are absolutely delighted. It is sheltered so if the weather starts to become an issue it doesn’t interfere with the family entertainment space at all as it has a roof. And it’s also air conditioned. We’re really, really excited about that. It will be a great place to go.

Ribfest is the primary fundraiser for the Exchange Club of Naperville, which works to end domestic violence and child abuse. Funds raised at the festival benefit several local charities. The event operates with the help of hundreds of volunteers. Those interested in volunteering can register on the Ribfest website.

In the past, the Exchange Club used the slogan “party with a purpose,” McDonough said.

“We’re not using that line this year, but that idea is really there,” he said. “Go out, have a good time and you can feel good because you are doing good for the local community and the western suburbs.”

33rd Annual Ribfest

When: June 17-20

Where: DuPage Event Center & Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton

Tickets: Concerts: $45 to $195 on June 17; $35 to $175 on June 18; $45 to $195 on June 19; and $25 to $145 on June 20. Carnival Unlimited Rides Wristband: $22.49-$31.85 June 17-19; $27.16 on June 20. Premium parking: $10

Information: 630-259-1129; ribfest.net

Kathy Cichon is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.

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