Beacon News | Steve Lord | January 4, 2019
Aurora is confident it has the best bid to host Ribfest when it moves from Naperville in 2020.
Mayor Richard Irvin said this week the city’s entertainment infrastructure, transportation opportunities and parking make it the “best location for Ribfest now and in the future.”
“We are in a unique position to take in such an event,” Irvin said.
The opportunity to host Ribfest is available because the Exchange Club of Naperville, which holds the annual event as a fundraiser for charity, is considering new locations.
Changes are planned at Knoch Park, behind Naperville Central High School, where Ribfest has been held for more than 30 years. The event is set to be held at Knoch for the last time this year, then moved in 2020.
The event draws as many as 200,000 people every year. Exchange Club officials have been quoted as saying they might not be able to find a new place in Naperville for the event, and have been looking at sites in Romeoville, Aurora and Oswego.
Irvin said Aurora’s RiverEdge Park along North Broadway is a natural location for Ribfest. Exchange Club officials say they have told Aurora officials it needs about twice as much space as is available at RiverEdge.
But Irvin said by 2020 the new pedestrian and bike bridge over the Fox River from the southern end of RiverEdge Park will be finished, so the city can provide more than enough space using both sides of the river. Aurora has already used the two-location concept at its own Fourth of July celebrations at RiverEdge and McCullough parks.
The pedestrian bridge also links RiverEdge with all the city parking on the West Bank of the river.
The mayor pointed out that the Aurora Transportation Center, just across Broadway from RiverEdgem is where Metra trains running between Aurora and Naperville come in. It also is the pulse point for the city’s bus system, which includes links between Naperville and Aurora at Fox Valley Center.
And the park is a short drive from Interstate 88, Irvin said.
Exchange Club officials have said the first and biggest criteria for a new location is that the city wants the event, and is aware of the club’s mission. Ribfest is a fundraising event for more than 50 charities for the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.
Exchange Club officials have also said they don’t want to be too far from Naperville, since about half those attending Ribfest come from there.
Irvin said Aurora has proven it can handle big and diverse crowds through the Paramount and RiverEdge events, and even through other city events downtown. He said people from throughout the state and even out of state attend events in downtown Aurora.
“We have made huge strides,” he said. “Aurora’s image and perception has changed for the better.”
Exchange Club officials have said they will make a decision on the new location by the time the 2019 event takes place.