There will be more rib-eating fun at the 2nd annual outdoor RibFest in Swift Current during the August long weekend.

The Living Sky Casino is partnering again with the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation to host RibFest in the casino parking lot, Aug. 2-4.

“The general format is the same, but overall I would say we're going bigger and better this year,” Living Sky Casino Senior Operations Manager Lindsay Gerbrandt said. “Instead of two ribbers we've got three. We've also expanded the amount of hours we're offering live entertainment, and the beverage gardens will also stay open until 1 a.m. this year, which is later than previous.”

The casino decided to start RibFest last year after identifying an opportunity to create an organized event in the community for early August.

“We felt it was something the community would enjoy,” she said. “We strongly believe in being a good community partner and during the summer there was kind of a gap in community events. Frontier Days happen and then there's not too much going on as far as organized events. This year of course the [Western Canada] Summer Games is coming up, but on a regular basis there wasn't any planned events around the beginning of August. So we decided to bring something to the community.”

They were very pleased with the success of last year’s inaugural RibFest, despite wet weather during the weekend.

“Overall it went very well,” she said. “The weather wasn't 100 per cent cooperative with us. We did see some fairly heavy rains throughout that weekend, but despite that we still had a really great turnout. Even when there was a downpour, there were still people lined up waiting to get their food. We do appreciate the support from the community and we look forward to doing it again this year, and we've got a few more tents that we'll have just in case the rain comes.”

RibFest’s location on the very visible casino site next to the Trans-Canada Highway might again help to attract travellers to the event.

“It gives a good opportunity to introduce tourists to Swift Current and area,” she said. “So when they see everything that's going on, they'll pull off the highway and we had a number of visitors at last year's event from all across Canada who told us that exact story. They were travelling and they saw that there was something going on. So they stopped.”

Sean Finell, the special events and communications coordinator for the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation, said RibFest is a good opportunity to raise funds and increase awareness of their activities to support healthcare in the region.

“Last year's event was tremendous for the first time out,” he mentioned. “The casino just does a tremendous job putting everything on and pulling it all together, and I think we've got bigger and better coming this year.”

The Foundation was able to raise $14,000 in 2018 by selling business sponsorships for RibFest, and he expected the support from businesses will help them to exceed that amount in 2019.

“We get great sponsorship support from the community, whether it's our black-tie event or our golf tournament or RibFest,” he said. “People in this community have supported us very well for 20 years now, and really that's the main thing. We can't do it without the support of the community and we just get a lot of great responses.”

The funds raised through last year’s RibFest went towards the Foundation’s campaign to purchase a portable digital X-ray machine for the Cypress Regional Hospital. Sponsorship funds from the 2019 RibFest will benefit the Foundation’s current Close to the Heart campaign to raise $350,000 for the purchase of a new digital mammography unit for the Cypress Regional Hospital.

The current mammography unit in the hospital was purchased in 2009 with funds collected by the Foundation, and it has already done over 20,000 scans.

“The existing unit is still functioning,” he said. “It's not that it's not doing it's job. It's just a matter of things begin to wear out and need to be replaced, and with health care equipment technology advances too.”

The Foundation is always looking for opportunities to raise funds for healthcare in southwest Saskatchewan, and they appreciate this partnership with the Living Sky Casino.

“We've got a number of events coming up this year in support of the digital mammography campaign,” he said. “This is what we would refer to as a third-party event. It's not something that we're hosting, but it is then generating money that will support health care purchases through the Foundation.”

According to Gerbrandt the casino’s partnership with the Foundation is related to the company’s five guiding principles, which includes the concept of Wîtaskêwin.

Wîtaskêwin speaks to living together on the land, but in today's terms we take that to mean sharing success,” she explained. “So part of our foundational values is that we give back to the communities where we live and where we work.”

The three ribbers at RibFest 2019 are Prairie Smoke & Spice from Pilot Butte, Bordertown BBQ from Lloydminster, and Gator BBQ from Port Dover, Ontario. They will be serving a variety of southern-style barbeque, including ribs, brisket and chicken, from $8 to $30. Ribbers will be open from 4-9 p.m. on Aug. 2, and from noon to 9 p.m. on Aug. 3 and 4.

There will be a contest to select the winning ribber that provides the best food experience at RibFest. Visitors will have an opportunity to participate in an online vote on the Living Sky Casino website to support their favourite ribber. There will also be a celebrity judging contest on Aug. 4, and the ribbers will try to impress the celebrities with a signature meal.

Admission to RibFest is free, and it is a family friendly event with entertainment for all ages. The Robertson Family Group kid zone will have inflatables and games for children, and businesses that signed up to sponsor the Healthcare Foundation will have displays and activities. There will be a beverage garden (no minors after 10 p.m.) and a large tent will provide a venue for daily musical entertainment.

The musical performers will include Saskatchewan and local musicians such as Val Halla, Jesse Gensorek, the Eliza Doyle trio, Hook and Nail, Griffin Funk, Rob Hudec, Bakersfield, Dallas and Phil Boyer, and Eekwol.

There will be a headline performance each day at 9 p.m., starting with Regina’s Andino Sons on Aug. 2. They perform South American mountain folk rock. The Pistolwhips, an indie rock band from Saskatoon, will headline the musical entertainment on Aug. 3. The final day’s main performance will be provided by Nice Horse, an all-female country band from Calgary.

More details about RibFest 2019 is available on the Living Sky Casino website and the casino’s Facebook page will also be updated during the RibFest weekend with information.

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