Letter: Rotaryfest Excludes Significant Part of the Community


As a advocate for people with disabilities and people living in poverty I am very frustrated with Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie in their decision to hold Rotaryfest/Ribfest as drive in/drive thru event. this format excludes many in Sault Ste. Marie from taking in this normally amazing event.

Many residents with disabilities live in poverty and many also can not afford or have access to a vehicle. With the pandemic we have suffered greatly some businesses with curb side pick up did not provide alternative ways for those of us without vehicles to pick up essential items.

Ribfest has always been walk up and take out service and is viable option within social distancing protocols this pandemic has brought on. Not offering this option is not community minded and is a slap in the face to those that suffered the most. Rotary club should be ashamed of themselves to throw inclusivity out the window for the sake of putting on a event that does not include everyone.

The Rotary Club being a great supporter of people especially children with disabilities should know better! Many of us can only afford a treat such as this couple times a year and often we plan ahead for this and in this case it wasn’t the pandemic that took this away from us it was lack of thinking by organizers to amend the festival to be inclusive to all residents.

I pray there’s still time to come up with a solution but with only a week left i believe rotary owes much of Sault Ste. Marie a apology and much better ideas in future if they can not hold a event that includes all walks of life in this community they should not be holding any events period

Scott Parsons


  1. Blame Trudeau and him not looking after our country, borders should have been shut down in January 2020 but didn’t now let’s see how many flights come in from China when it is yet another out break there

  2. Why would anyone question the integrity of the Rotary after everything they have done for the Sault? There are restrictions and they are doing their best. Maybe if you’re weren’t so selfish, people would offer you a ride, Scott. Shame on you. You owe the Rotary an apology.

  3. Since the announcement was made that the event will be at Lowe’s parking lot I have been trying to get an answer to a simple question. I am in a wheelchair (Yes this is my vehicle and I drive it everywhere) Will I be able to attend to get the Ribs from the Ribfest? I have not received a reply to this other than “please contact APH” (they are wondering why I was directed to contact them?) I live close by and will be able to hear the music from my yard so I am not looking to linger, I just want to enjoy a good feed of ribs as do many of my other disabled friends (there are 3 large buildings within 5 minutes of the location that house 100’s of people using wheelchairs, scooter and walkers) Please just answer the simple question YES I can or NO I can’t.

    • Hello Karen! May I ask who you have been reaching out to with your question? I only ask because we have NOT been directing anyone to contact APH. Although they have been extremely helpful with providing guidance, they are not part of the planning committee for this event. I want to make sure that others are not also being redirected to APH. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

      We have been working on and expanding our policy for different mobility devices, which will be up on our site in more detail before next week.

      For Ribfest:
      If you are driving an electric wheelchair, we ask that you have a safety flag on the back so that you can be seen by other vehicles in the drive-thru. We ask that you approach the Ribfest entrance (on Northern Ave) from the sidewalk and that you wait to be directed into the line when our Rotary traffic controller indicates that it is safe.

      Hope this answered you question! For future reference, our phone number is 705-945-1279 and if you message our page then we will respond directly to your inquiries.

      Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie

      • Thanks for the reply. I did send an email thru the Rotaryfest.com contact page a few days ago – NO response as yet. I won’t mention the persons name on a public format that told me to contact APH, but I do have it.

  4. I will commend the Rotary Club for finding a way to continue through the pandemic restrictions. Certainly this will allow them to raise funds for their much-needed programs.

  5. I wonder if those responding “it is what it is” are disabled, or have persons with disabilities in their family group? I find often that the able-bodied don’t appreciate the difficulty faced by those with disabilities. For us, it is all too often “this or nothing”.

    • I fully agree there David. Until you are confined to a wheelchair you do not realize how much your life changes. There are still so many boundaries, so many places that are NOT accessible. That door slams in my face so often “this or nothing” is a common everyday occurrence.

    • You need wonder no more, Root.
      I am one of those that is in fact disabled and this years setup is too inconvenient for me and my disabled friends.

  6. These are trying times and organizations can only do what is allowed. The event is being held at the old Lowes location and if I wanted to go I know we have great bus service. It is a drive in event but I am sure you will see a lot of scooters and wheelchairs that will attend. I too have a disabilty and walking is difficult. I am sure with the ribfest will be able to approach with a walker if I want to get ribs.

  7. I can appreciate the sentiment behind Mr. Parsons’s letter. However, it’s this or nothing. It’s a drive up/drive through event or it’s no money raised at all for children who need it. While it is sad that this event can not be as accessible as it normally is (at no fault of Rotary’s), the Rotarians are coming through in the best way they can for the special needs children they serve.

  8. Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie I truly hope for a great turn out!!!! Most of us know we can not please a 100% of the time, most of us understand this way or nothing. Those that do not have transportation can not spill your beans over this, your daily life excludes it already why expect a club like this to accommodate? Thank you for keeping everyone safe over the NEEDS of everyone, the world does not owe us anything.

    • Thanks JT for the good wishes!

      Our club and planning committee really do understand that we host the largest event in our area, and that it is a significant weekend for many people in our community. We try our best every year to provide free activities and entertainment in an accessible location. Unfortunately, the restrictions this year do not allow us to do as much as we usually would.

      This year is a temporary stop as we work our way back to Clergue Park. 🙂

  9. given the pandemic, and our open close open close waves the Government has put us thru, holding the event as drive thru was probably the best option or just cancel again. You need to remember this is planned months in advance and ROTARY would have no idea exactly what restrictions would be in place at the time of the event.

    • Good morning Mark. You’re spot on! Discussions about this year’s ROTARYFEST began in 2020 and have had to adjust several times as regulations change. We have been very grateful for the guidance of Algoma Public Health in interpreting the guidelines as they become available.

      You are correct that drive-thru event was our best (and only) option under the current restrictions on outdoor events.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie

  10. I think considering the pandemic and all its restrictions ROTARY is doing the best it can to provide some fun for us sooites. I have the greatest respect for the members of ROTARY and am so thankful for all they do. Knowing this organization I feel confident they spent a lot of time coming up with the event as planned. Thanks, ROTARY.

    • Thank you Bri, you are entirely correct. The only large outdoor events currently allowed under Ontario restrictions are drive-in and drive-thru events. Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot to our Rotarians and volunteers to hear them.

      Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie

    • Hello Bill, we are sorry that you feel this way. Our primary mandate for 100 years has been helping children with physical disabilities, and we take that responsibility very seriously. Under current restrictions, the only alternative to a drive-in/drive-thru event was to cancel entirely. Many of the charities we are raising money for through ROTARYFEST and the ROTARYFEST 50/50 draw need the funds more than ever. The needs of children with physical disabilities has actually increased during the pandemic as many school resources became unavailable.

      We are looking forward to returning to Clergue Park as soon as we are able.

      I hope that addresses some of your concerns. If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to us at the Rotary office: 705-945-1279.

      Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie

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