In two more weeks, Defiance’s annual rib fest — like many outdoor events this year — is scheduled to make a comeback.
As such, the Defiance Development and Visitors Bureau (DDVB) which organizes the event is in the midst of final preparations, culminating a process that has been ongoing since last year when the rib fest was canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
This year’s event is scheduled from 3:30 p.m.-11 p.m. on Sept. 25, so downtown Clinton Street — between Second and Fifth streets — is expected to be closed from 6 a.m. on Sept. 25 until about 1 a.m. on Sept. 26. Gates on both sides of Fourth Street — east and west of Clinton Street — will open at 3:30 p.m.
But because the event is still two weeks away, DDVB officials are still looking over their shoulder a little as coronavirus cases have risen recently.
“Absolutely, it’s very nerve wracking,” said DDVB Director Kirstie Mack. “Right now the phone rings and you get a little concerned. You just never know, but we’re seeing a lot of events going on around us. We’re doing our best.”
DDVB events such as the Lilac Festival in May and the fireworks display in July have been well attended this year, so officials are expecting a large crowd in two weeks. Previous Defiance rib fests — held every year since 2007 with the exception of 2020 — have topped 7,000 in attendance.
“We average about 7,500,” said Mack. “We’re expecting a larger crowd than that. We’ve seen our large events have had a big uptick and responses continue to grow because of our promotions.”
No special restrictions will be on place for this year’s event.
“We’ve discussed different protocols with a few large events if some of those pieces need to be implemented,” she said. “We’re very lucky this is an outdoor event because this gives people more opportunities to social distance, if necessary.”
The rib fest serves as a significant fundraiser for the DDVB, generating “in the $15,000 range,” so last year’s event was missed. However, the DDVB also relies heavily on the city’s hotel/motel tax, so it came through last year fairly well, according to Mack.
“You don’t realize how much of an impact it has until it doesn’t exist,” she said, but added “we had a lot of support from the community.”
Volunteers are a huge part of the rib fest as well, with more than 300 involved, according to Mack.
Funds raised from the rib fest are used for a variety of functions and also help with the annual fireworks display. As for rib fest costs, contributions from several event sponsors help the DDVB realize a positive financial outcome.
The six main sponsors are Werlor Waste Control, General Motors, Farmers and Merchants State Bank, City Beverage, Stykemain Buick GMC, and Pack and Post. Band sponsors are Sam Switzer Realty, Fowler Fresh, Baird Private Health Management, and Randy and Chris Yoder.
Planning for the event has been ongoing for many months.
“We start discussing the larger details of this event between 18 and 12 months in advance,” said Mack, noting that officials were in contact long ago with bands that had been scheduled to appear in 2020 about scheduling them for 2021.
Bands this year will include Venyx, a northwest Ohio band, from 4-7:15 p.m.; The Menus, a Cincinnati-based band, from 8-11 p.m.; and Odd State, a group of three Defiance High School students, who will perform in front of the main stage.
Plenty of food and beverage also will be available.