Cindy Briggs, right, shown here with her mother, Maxine Briggs, was ‘the spark plug and the energy’ behind the Esquimalt Ribfest, the event she co-founded five years ago. Photo courtesty of Maxine Briggs

Esquimalt Ribfest racks up volunteers, making it a family affair

Annual event still bittersweet since 2016 passing of co-founder Cindy Briggs

When Cindy Briggs picked up the phone to call longtime friend Tom Woods to ask if he’d help put on a Ribfest in Esquimalt, Woods didn’t hesitate to answer.

“I like eating ribs and I like drinking beer,” he says with a laugh, remembering that he hardly knew what he was getting himself into.

But Briggs was the sort of person who regularly made these calls, drawing on friends and family to support countless community efforts she brought forth over the years. When the Esquimalt Ribfest returns to Bullen Field next weekend (Sept. 8 to 10) for its fifth year, it will be bittersweet. Briggs passed away suddenly in May 2016 and her empty shoes are hard to fill.

“She was the organizer, the spark plug, the energy and the drive,” Woods says.

Her talent for organization is one of her legacies. Woods calls her festival blueprints ‘the bible,’ adding that the volunteer team will use them again this year.

Briggs came from a family of six sisters and this year and they’ll all be at Ribfest volunteering in her honour.

Woods says the Briggs’ are the epitome of what it means to be a family. They were always there to help whenever she had an idea or a brainstorm, he says. “They’ve always leaned on each other. That’s just the way they are, they do it with their heart and soul.”

Giving back to the community runs in the Briggs family. Cindy’s father, Tillman, coached Woods at the James Bay Athletic Association and Cindy started a legacy project to get kids on the field who couldn’t afford to play, after Tillman passed away.

She’d often drop by after practice to bring the kids freezies, recalls her sister, Janice Briggs. After Cindy passed away, volunteering at Ribfest was one way Janice and her family found to recognize her sister and stay connected to what she was involved in and contributing to.

“Seeing how successful and how much [Ribfest] contributed to the community, made it special for her,” Janice says.

The idea Cindy had for a little community festival has now grown into an event that fed 50,000 people last year.

Of the six rib rigs this year, two will have Cindy’s sons, Penner and Oliver behind the grill.

Live music, craft beer and tons of kids activities round out the free festival. All funds raised go right back into the community, Janice says, and that’s what makes it so important that she and her sisters keep coming back. An ongoing fundraising project to build an all-weather playing field in Esquimalt is one of the goals Ribfest supports.

“She was always so busy,” Janice says, but never one to take centre stage. “She wasn’t someone who would make a lot of noise about things that she did. She got the job done with humour and lightness.”

In the community and in the Briggs’ family, Janice adds, there is a gap and a missing energy.

“Few people in your life that you meet are absolutely 100 per cent genuine, and you sort of cherish those people more than the specific memories,” Woods says.

“That would be my memory of Cindy. It was never about Cindy, ever.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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