Blues, brew and BBQ returns at 12th annual Little Bear Ribfest in Vernon Hills

Little Bear Ribfest returns this weekend to Century Park in Vernon Hills with a simple premise that hasn’t wavered since its debut in 2011.

“That’s our tagline — blues, brew and barbecue,” explained Jack Scherer, recreation supervisor for the Vernon Hills Park District. Visit

Scherer says over the years people have asked about adding attractions like a carnival or different styles of food or music. But the district has stuck to its roots for the annual end of summer event.

Ribfest wasn’t held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and was down rib vendors the next two years. But it’s back to full strength with six vendors for Ribfest 2023 from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday along the shore of Little Bear Lake at Century Park, 1001 Lakeview Parkway north of Route 60.

“There were a lot of places that wanted to participate but didn’t have enough staff” to operate their restaurants and events, Scherer said.

The lineup is: City Barbeque; Smokin’ BBQ on 45; BBQ’d Productions; Brother’s BBQ; Jameson’s Charhouse; and, Boonie Mac Shack.



“There’s a lot of variety with the vendors so whatever you want you should be able to find it,” Scherer said.

Non-rib vendor Bobo’s will serve ice cream, cotton candy and hot dogs and the local Rotary will be roasting corn.

Entertainment Friday is Funky Mojo Daddy and Ribfest veteran Kevin Purcell & the Nightburners. Brandon Santini, Wayne Baker Brooks and Bernard Allison perform Saturday.

The two-day fest is the park district’s largest event. Admission is $5 with proceeds going to the district’s Family Scholarship Fund, which helps families without means send kids to summer camp or other programs.

“Our goal every year is to give at least $10,000 to the scholarship fund,” Scherer said.

Food is not included in admission. All rib pricing is the same so there isn’t price gouging, Schering said, but the cost of other offerings is up to the vendor. Besides beer, wine and soft drinks, a bourbon bar also is back this year.

“I think it goes well with barbecue,” Scherer said.


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