It was hotter than Hades outside, as it has been most of this summer. A barbecued rib festival was set up on the yellow, sun-fried grass next to a grocery store parking lot in a town a half hour drive away from my home. I still had a mountain of packing and organizing to do before our family was due to depart the next morning for a trip to the state of New York. Yet, I had to get there, just had to. Couldn't miss it. Did I mention that I don't even like ribs?
So what brings a time-strapped, shade loving vegetarian to a meat centered food festival 50 km from home? Nostalgia, that's what. My husband and sons were along for the chow down, but I was there to steal back just a little bit of my youth. The Bradford Ribfest has been held there for the past 4 years, just down the road from where I went to high school. The event was set up in front of a Zehrs store that didn't exist back then. I had fluffy hair and Road Runner jeans, and this was a farmer's field. But on this day, a concert stage set up next to Holland Street held the promise of a short trip back in time.
First things first. Nobody goes to a food festival and doesn't eat, so off we went in search of something munchable. Two of the guys are big rib fans, so they lined up under 2 separate giant barbecue banners. Patrick chose Richmond Hill based Pig Kahuna and Ron went to Billy Bones, out of Michigan, U.S.A., for his dinner. Mitchell grabbed some pulled pork and I wandered over to Billy Bob's Bloomin Onion to grab one of their signature deep fried offerings to share, and a poutine for myself. We met up under the welcome shade of a dining tent.
Since this event was a competition, and the vendors welcome being judged, I feel that I can put aside my usual rule against negative reviews this one time. Pig Kahuna was very disappointing. Perhaps the non-existent queue should have been a hint. Perhaps Canadian barbecue still has some catching up to do with our American counterparts? In any case, my #1 rib fan son, who dines at every rib fest or barbecue joint he can get to, got a box of the driest, most sauce-less and flavour-free ribs he has ever eaten. He eventually went back and asked for more sauce but it helped little. They were a poor cousin to the juicy, tangy ribs my husband was happily attacking next to him. Patrick did not finish his ribs, which is unheard of.
Bloomin Onion, were you in competition too? You certainly lived up to your name, as your crispy onion delights were huge and superb. I loved the dipping sauce too, although I should have been smarter and asked for more of it. However, poutine masters you are not. The fries were good but sprinkling on a bare ration of some sort of grated white cheese, with a less than generous ladle of warm gravy, was not cool. Not cool.
Okay, we ate. The reviews were mixed but this nibbler was not really there for the food, odd as that may sound. My eyes wandered to the stage area as show time approached. I began to look for some familiar faces because I was expecting to see quite a few of my former classmates as we gathered to watch a 30 minute show 36 years in the making. For a half an hour, the 1980s would be given back to us in the form of the Ninth Line, as they sang the same songs they had often performed on the stage in Bradford District High School's cafetorium.
I positioned myself by the stage in hopes of getting some good photographs of the band. My vantage point turned out to be ideal for classmate spotting too. So many of my former school mates turned up - it was absolutely fantastic! Nancy Jean, Marcia, Lori, Dawn, Jo-Anne, Rob, Jim, Joe, Jeremy, Mike, Matt, Rhonda, Darryl ... all appeared, some out of the recent past and others not seen for nearly 4 decades. Big hugs. Shouts of "Oh my God!" High waves across the crowded field. Short conversations yelled over loud music.
I know of no other event, other than our actual high school reunion 7 years ago, that attracted so many BDHS alumni. The big draw, that seemed to surprise even the Ribfest organizers, was very obviously the Ninth Line. Possibly, the Ninth Line band members themselves were equally surprised. The boys, including a sound engineer, a lawyer and a professional musician, stepped onstage to a welcome worthy of the Rolling Stones. Forget side entertainment at a food festival, this was the main event, a sold-out show in a huge arena. This was our band from our time.
For a short while, we were transported, brought back to our teen years. Country kids and small town kids, grooving the music of the Beatles, Eagles and Kings, remembering a time when our biggest stressors were math homework and finding a prom date. Matt, Joe, Mike, Jim and Peter may be part-time musicians today, but to me they are more like the pilots of a time machine with the dial set to 1980. Thanks for the awesome trip, guys. I look forward to the next voyage of the Ninth Line.