Ribfest weathers Sunday storm, continues strong
By Jasmine young For The Sun July 1, 2012 4:22PM
Mark Willis of Highland, Ind., feeds his wife, Nicole, a rib on Saturday, June 30, 2012, at Ribfest in Naperville. The Willises said it was their first time attending the festival. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 30, 2012 10:35AM
NAPERVILLE — The clouds began to form above Knoch Park on Sunday as Ribfest volunteers and vendors were forced to close down the park and their stations. The only definite piece of news was everyone must take cover. Some chose to leave the park all together, and others stayed, hoping the storms would clear out.
Vendors and volunteers had no choice in the matter and moved to the “barn,” a small building usually used for volunteer check-ins. The building began to fill even as many stayed outside to capture photos and pictures of the coming storm.
At 12:25 p.m. security corralled everyone inside and the oxygen supply grew thin. People formed groups and circles on the main floor and others were forced to vacate the stairs. Lawn chairs provided relief to some while the floor served as a seat for many.
Originally, Ribfest was only closed until 1 p.m. when security officials said the storm would pass over, but the all clear signal was delayed until about 1:45 p.m. as gates began to open one by one.
Ribfest chairman Mark Wright tried to wish the storms away as he reassured vendors, volunteers, attendees and others that the festival would go on.
“We obviously hate to lose any amount of hours of sales,” Wright said. “This is a charity event, so every hour that we lose is pretty critical for the amount of money that we’re able to give bac. But it looks like (the storm) is well over now.”
According to the National Weather Service, there is still a chance of thunderstorms, but the all clear was given for the time being at Knoch Park.
As for the band Admiral of Black, who were scheduled to perform at 12:30 p.m., Wright said entertainment would continue as scheduled for the remainder of the day.
“Unfortunately we are (booked) for the rest of the week,” Wright said. “There will probably be one, possibly two bands affected, but for the most part they understand the issues, that it’s weather and there’s nothing we can do about it. We’ll just keep moving forward on the schdeule.”
Despite the weather, people were still lined up to get into the park. They began putting up lawn chairs and placing blankets on the ground to secure a spot for the night and had umbrellas ready to block the sun and the rain.
Sonya Walker of Madison, Ill., was driving to Ribfest when the storm came over the city. The storm didn’t stop Walker and her family from coming, however. They simply waited in the car until the rain stopped.
“We come to Ribfest every year and having ZZ (Top) here ... the rain wasn’t going to keep us away, not even the hot sun,” Walker said. “(Ribfest) is a great place to bring a family every year, and I love Naperville. It’s really nice out here.”
Noel and Paul from Chicago arrived at the park as the storm started and decided to eat at a nearby restaurant until the storm cleared. They say the wait was worth it.
“We drove from Chicago ... and I’ve never been to Ribfest,” Paul said. “We thought since we were already out here we would stay. We can’t stay the whole night, but we probably will stay for a couple hours.”
Wright said attendance is good so far and is expected to continue strong.
“We’ve had about 18,000 pre-sold tickets from this morning,” Wright said. “We have a huge walk-up sale that we’ve experienced over the last two days. So we’re estimating that we could be close to capacity (about 28,000 people) by the end of the day, so it’s a good day for us.”
By the look of the park in mid-afternoon, no one would have guessed that two hours prior, a storm had ceased all operations.