It looks like Warren will be getting its ribs fix this year after all.
Despite the looming cloud of debt obligations and booking troubles facing its sponsor, Ribfest 2012 is getting new life thanks to another local organization.
According to Jim Decker, president and CEO of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry (WCCBI), his organization will take control of the event this summer from Warren Main Street, also known as the Warren Business District Coalition.
Main Street was facing a debt of over $5,000 incurred by the group's predecessor GRO-Warren, no license to sell alcohol and other obligations hanging over its head.
According to Decker and Main Street President Dan Ristau, their organizations began having conversations about partnering for Ribfest last fall. That partnership evolved in conversations between Ristau and Decker over time until it became apparent Main Street didn't have the resources to spearhead the event.
"At that point, it seemed like it would be best for us just to do it," Decker said on Friday. "We're in a good position to take control. We have resources they don't. The best thing for both sides was to just let us take it over. They've got businesses to run. It doesn't leave a lot of hours in the day."
"Our board has made the decision, because of the time and resources involved, to let them take it over," Ristau said. "We're looking toward a quick and smooth transition. We're really excited about this."
Main Street isn't totally out the door, though. Decker and Ristau both made sure to point out they're looking at it as a partnership, despite WCCBI heading it up.
"Main Street will be involved," Decker said. "They have offered to help on a voluntary basis."
According to Ristau, "We'll be meeting with Jim first of next week to discuss what we've done and what our part is going to be. We feel the more people involved in building programs the better."
"They've done a wonderful job getting it where it is so far," Decker said. "It's just a matter of resources. They have limited resources."
Ristau noted the change gives him an opportunity to pursue other Main Street priorities. Ristau said he is focusing on Main Street building projects and re-shaping Main Street itself.
"Both Ribfest and the buildings are important, but I'm very involved in the buildings on a day-to-day basis," Ristau said. "This gives me the time needed to re-build the Main Street board and build the foundations of our organization. I look forward to getting Main Street back to where it should be."
Meanwhile, Decker and the WCCBI are looking forward to the challenges of taking over Ribfest.
"The most significant challenge will be getting sponsors," Decker said. "It will be necessary to make this financially viable and get this thing done right. We want to reach out to businesses across Warren County to help support this."
According to Decker, the Warren County Council on Tourism, a part of WCCBI, will be working on the event. He noted they plan to marry the event with a state champion canoe race which COT is already involved in which is scheduled for the same weekend.
Ribfest is scheduled for July 18-21 at Betts Park.