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Ribfest—a 30-year-old tradition—cancelled by Northeast Exchange Club

“As with any great organization, change is inevitable.”

The Northeast Exchange Club of St. Petersburg is cancelling its long-running premier event, Ribfest.

The social club has been hosting the concert and rib-laden festival in St. Pete’s Vinoy Park for 30 years. It will not host an event this year, the group announced on Facebook.

“As with any great organization, change is inevitable. St. Petersburg has changed over the years and with it the needs of the community. This is why the Northeast Exchange Club of St. Petersburg is announcing the retirement of Ribfest,” the group wrote.

They did not elaborate on what prompted the cancellation, but told supporters to “stay tuned for what’s next.”

Over its 30-year run, Ribfest has raised more than $4.5 million for local charities, particularly those helping children. Volunteer vendors at beer trucks could be heard shouting “it’s for the kids” whenever someone through a tip into a jar.

Ribfest has been marked by a three-day weekend packed with rock and country music on two stages. The event has hosted big names in classic rock ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Huey Lewis and the News and the Doobie Brothers. Last year the event featured 90s icons the Barenaked Ladies.

But the event was perhaps most noted for its access to mouthwatering ribs from all over the world.

While the Northeast Exchange Club didn’t elaborate on the annual event’s troubles, some former attendees weighed in with their thoughts on Facebook. Some contended the prices were too high, particularly for people who went to sample ribs and not necessarily to enjoy the music.

One commenter suggested perhaps vegans were to blame. Others said it was too expensive to get in and buy food at at least $20 a rack of ribs. Some commenters lamented they weren’t surprised after last year’s event had a poor turnout.

Still most comments expressed disappointment over a long-running November tradition in St. Pete.

The Northeast Exchange Club thanked the thousands of volunteers who have helped run the event over the years. They also gave a hat tip to the city of St. Pete for co-sponsoring it every year.

“Yes the needs of our community have changed. What will never change, however, is our dedication to serving and making our community a better place to live,” the group said.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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