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Local News

Naperville Ribfest organizers enter final talks with Romeoville to host in 2020

Curly Hamilton, mascot of Naperville Ribfest, high-fives a fair-goer July 4 during the event. Ribfest's organizers are searching for a new location for the festival in 2020, and Romeoville is one of the contenders. The festival draws thousands each year from outside Naperville. Romeoville Mayor John Noak sees the consideration as an "interesting opportunity."
Curly Hamilton, mascot of Naperville Ribfest, high-fives a fair-goer July 4 during the event. Ribfest's organizers are searching for a new location for the festival in 2020, and Romeoville is one of the contenders. The festival draws thousands each year from outside Naperville. Romeoville Mayor John Noak sees the consideration as an "interesting opportunity."

Organizers of Naperville’s annual Ribfest, which attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees, have entered into final talks with the village of Romeoville to host next year’s event.

The Board of Directors of the Exchange Club of Naperville, which organizes the fest, voted to approve the Ribfest Relocation Team’s recommendation Friday to enter into final discussions on a contract with Romeoville.

This year’s Ribfest will be the final one held at Knoch Park in Naperville, its home of more than 30 years, Exchange Club President John Dunham said in a news release Wednesday morning.

“We are honored that they have chosen Romeoville for this premier summer event,” Romeoville Mayor John Noak said in a statement later Wednesday.

Mary Howenspine, a spokeswoman for the club, previously told The Herald-News the Naperville Park District had notified the group late last summer that there will be construction that would prevent the event from being held at its normal location in 2020. Howenspine said Ribfest has been held at the park since at least 1990.

“Our goal for this summer is two-fold – host an incredible Ribfest 2019, and secure a new home for Ribfest 2020 and beyond, so we can continue funding worthy agencies,” Dunham said. “The discussions with ... Romeoville are the next logical step.”

Romeoville officials plan to meet with various stakeholders before finalizing a contract.

“We need to make sure that, first and foremost, this is a good fit for our community and their organization. There are still topics to negotiate in order make sure that the concerns of the residents are addressed during this final process,” Noak said.

The village hopes to reach an agreement with the Exchange Club and will work to support its mission to fund nonprofit agencies.

Officials pointed out that Ribfest will not be a replacement for Romeofest. The village still plans on having a local festival later in the season.

Noak previously said there were different layouts being analyzed, including having part of Ribfest at the amphitheater at Deer Crossing Park near Village Hall. Romeofest takes place at and around the park and the grounds near the Romeoville Recreation Department. Noak said that location could provide more overall space for Ribfest than Knoch Park.

On Wednesday, Noak said the Deer Crossing campus, off Romeo Road, is the location being considered in final discussions.

Noak also said issues such as parking always will be a challenge. There probably will have to be off-site parking and shuttle buses going to the main site included in the operation.

The village does have an advantage, Noak said, as it directly runs a large portion of its parks and recreation and fire departments. The streamlined approach allows the village to be more nimble in working with the Exchange Club.

The contract will eventually go before the Village Board for approval.

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