Weekend's Ribfest still a go despite smoke concerns

By Vanessa Ybarra
August 10, 2017 - 5:27pm Updated: August 10, 2017 - 6:40pm

KAMLOOPS — Earlier this week a Geography and Environmental Studies Professor at TRU called for this year's Ribfest to be cancelled, saying with the city's Air Health Quality Rating is still extremely high and people should be staying indoors.

Ribfest organizers say the thick smoke isn't enough to extinguish spirits, with the festival set to kick off Friday morning.

The event has brought in more than $400-thousand since its inception five years ago.

While their may be more smoke in the sky than on the grill, organizers say this year's Ribest is full steam ahead.

"We'll be out everyday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m beginning Friday," said Bryce Herman, Ribfest Spokesman and Entertainment Director.

The city has been under a thick blanket of smoke the last week and half due to the Elephant Hill wildfire burning near Clinton.

Earlier this week TRU Geography and Environmental Studies Professor Dr. Michael Mehta called on this year's Ribest to be cancelled due to poor air conditions.

"Whenever we bring people together into an outdoor environment when the exposures are likely to be high as they are this weekend we increase the risk to the general population," said Mehta. "I think the responsible and courageous thing for organizers to do for events like RIbest is to cancel and reschedule."

Herman says the show will go on despite the smoke.

"We certainly understand the air quality, we're also living in it," said Herman. "The reality is we still have thousands of evacuees that we're hosting in our city. The people of Kamloops have the opportunity to come on out and enjoy some great ribs and beverages."

Kamloops Air Health Quality Index reached a staggering 49 last week, hovering around the 10+ mark this week.

Organizers say residents have the right to choose whether to take part in this year's event or skip it and stay inside.

"It isn't like we sold a bunch of tickets and it was going to cost you $100 for a weekend pass and we're going to force you to come," said Herman. "It's a free event. If you choose to come, come on down and enjoy it."

Every year Ribfest draws hundreds of people to Riverside Park to sample some of the best ribs made by vendors throughout Western Canada.

The three day event is also packed with music performers, a show and shine car show, kids zone and more.

"It's really a 12 month project for the Daybreak Rotary Club, " added Herman. "We spend all year organizing it, so when we finish Ribfest this year and we're on the other side of it, we're going to be planning 2018."

While heavy smoke is expected to continue through the weekend, Environment Canada is calling for a chance of rain Sunday which is hoped to help dissipate the haze.

Regardless of the conditions, Herman says this year's Ribfest will offer a much-needed reprieve from the wildfires.

"What better thing to do when we've had a bit of bad news going on with the wildfires than to come out and enjoy yourself."

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