MOUNT FOREST – Attendance doubled at this year’s Mount Forest Ribfest as residents went out to ‘Git their Hillbilly on’.
About 600 people attended the amateur competition at the Mount Forest Community Sportsplex, a kick-off event for the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival.
Last year a local group known as Friends of Bill Walker began the charity cook-off Ribfest in memory of Walker, a Mount Forest resident who died after a short battle with cancer in 2017.
Proceeds from the event go to Cancer Patient Services and local youth sports in memory of Walker.
An award-winning journalist and a local soccer, ringette and hockey coach and volunteer, Walker was well known to many people throughout Grey, Bruce and Wellington counties.
In a telephone interview with the Advertiser, Walker’s good friend Axy Leighl said Walker “gave a lot to the community as a coach and being involved in the community.”
Leighl added, “(Walker) and his wife Christine Rivet and two young daughters were family friends.”
He explained the families would take turns hosting each other for dinner.
“Bill was … slightly competitive. Every time we’d go over, I’d notice he’d bring the game up a notch and I’d feel compelled to take my game up a notch when they came to our place,” said Leighl.
“There was that friendly competition between us. Ribs were something (Walker) considered to be a specialty of his.
“Unfortunately Bill got sick as he contracted cancer. While he was in the hospital, he and I spoke about ways to remember him. He liked the idea of a rib competition.”
Leighl stressed, “This is a family event intended to be fun.”
The funds raised go to causes Walker would support.
“He was a sports editor at the Owen Sound Sun Times and a sports coach, so last year we supported both hockey and figure skating as well as Cancer Patient Services.”
Leighl stressed while he was one of those involved, the event is successful thanks to a large group of people who knew Walker.
That includes Murray Townsend, Christine Rivet, Pete Turner and the girls’ hockey team Walker had coached.
Leighl said those individuals made up a large portion of the volunteers at the event – both this year and last year.
“In fact, there was a whole army of volunteers,” Leighl said. And there was overwhelming community support, he added.
This year’s winners are 1st Place: Shawn LaChanse; 2nd Place: Bob McFarlane; 3rd Place: Dan Curl; and People’s Choice Award: TD Smith.