Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
On Monday, organizers of the upcoming Ontario Pork Congress and Stratford Blues & Ribfest offered a taste of what the public can expect June 19-23.
With pulled pork and baked beans being served outside, representatives from the two events gathered at Trench Marketing’s new Erie Street office on Monday to reveal their plans for the five days later this month.
“It’s going to be a hog wild week!” proclaimed Ribfest co-chair Stew Laing.
Celebrating its 40th year, the Ontario Pork Congress runs June 19-20 at the Rotary Complex, featuring a trade show with an expected 124 exhibitors, ranging from feed companies to machine manufacturers; producer forums, where the topics will be animal welfare and feed efficiency; a junior barrow show for youth; and the always popular pig art display.
There will also be a special lunch for past presidents and volunteers to celebrate the Congress’ 40 years, a hospitality tent with live music, and complimentary barbecue lunches and a taste sampling from local chefs.
While primarily a commercial event focused on education, organizer Steve Thomas said the Congress is also a social time and a chance for farmers to connect with the buying public.
As usual, the Pork Congress will kick off with the Hog Jog fundraiser in the evening on the Wednesday. It includes a 3.5 kilometre run/walk for families, the wiener run for kids six and under, and the 10 kilometre run, a challenging course for experienced runners and cyclists.
Proceeds from this year’s event will go to support Victim Services of Perth County to purchase a tracking device that will allow people in a high-risk situation to alert authorities with the push of a button, and towards transportation for people during their recovery from a traumatic incident.
The Hog Jog typically attracts around 450 participants and has raised over $200,000 for different causes over the last seven years.
Now in its fourth year, the Stratford Blues & Ribfest will close out the pork pageantry beginning on the Friday afternoon with a celebrity rib tasting at the Allman Arena.
That night, Canadian rock band Blue Rodeo will take the stage for what will be one of the few ticketed events of the weekend.
While a small part of the proceeds from the concert will go to the splash pad campaign, Ribfest organizers have donated a Fender Stratocaster guitar that will be signed by the band and raffled off – will all proceeds going to the local project.
Cash for Splash campaign member Kris LaCourse attended the media launch to thank Blue Rodeo, the band’s management, and the community for their continued support.
“As a big fan of Blue Rodeo myself, I’m very excited that this is going to take place in less than two weeks,” she added.
This year’s Blues & Ribfest performers will take the stage at two outdoor locations: a stage at the Allman Arena and at the bandshell on Veterans Drive. A long list of performers are scheduled including The Weber Brothers, one time members of Ronnie Hawkins’ storied backing band The Hawks, and legendary musician Dick Wagner, whose resume includes playing guitar and writing songs for Alice Cooper, KISS, and Aerosmith.
Special to this year’s festival, organizers will be screening the award winning documentary Louder Than Love, which tells the story of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit during the 1960s and features Wagner. The film will be shown in the City Hall Auditorium on Saturday at 1 and 3 p.m. with a question and answer period with Wagner to follow.
Other alternative programming unique to the Stratford event includes the Festival Roller Girls and a low contact roller derby game on the Saturday, a motorcycle swap meet and show, tractor show, ACES car show, a community breakfast, and Stratford Star showcase.
Of course, the festival wouldn’t be living up to its name without the ribs, and three award-winning ribbers will be serving up their specialties throughout the event, including Kentucky Smokehouse from Illinois, Jack the Ribber from Woodstock, Ont., and Railroad Ribs from Locust Hill, Ont.