Tillsonburg responds to cancellation of Shrine Club Barbeque

On August 24, the Tillsonburg Shrine Club announced the cancellation of what would have been the club’s 64th annual Pork Barbeque. This event, typically held in Memorial Arena, had originally been scheduled to take place on Wednesday, September 13. 

The cancellation was announced by the Club after they were contacted by Town Recreation staff on July 21 and advised that the event could not be accommodated on the arena floor due to increased demand for ice rentals. Recreation staff presented the Club a variety of alternative dates and locations for consideration. However, none of these options was found acceptable and the Shrine Club decided not to move forward with the event in 2023.

“The demand for ice has increased as our population has grown,” explains Julie Columbus, director of Recreation, Culture and Parks. “Usually the ice in Memorial is ready for use by October 1. This year, user groups requested it to be installed earlier to allow for ice time by September 18. Given that ice installation is a multi-day process that is affected by variations in weather, we were required to make a decision to commence the process earlier and would be unable to accommodate the Shrine Club’s event on the Memorial Pad. Substitute venues were explored and suggested as alternate options, unfortunately they were not found suitable by the Shrine Club.”

“I’ve heard from many, many people in the community regarding the cancellation of this long-standing event,” says Mayor Deb Gilvesy, “and I share their concerns and disappointment. The barbeque is a cherished annual fundraising event in Tillsonburg that generates a great deal of money for a variety of community causes, including our local hospital. While I can appreciate the desire of Town staff to accommodate all user groups, I believe more dialogue was required in this instance. The barbeque is an event with more than 60 years of history.”

“The Tillsonburg Shrine Club has been a part of the social and philanthropic fabric of Tillsonburg for generations, and is a valuable community partner,” says CAO Kyle Pratt. “Our staff try to accommodate the needs of all user groups. Sometimes there are conflicting schedules and unfortunately this time staff was unable to find suitable alternatives that worked for the Shrine Club. I want to assure the residents of Tillsonburg that we’ll be reviewing our policies and processes to ensure this kind of situation never happens again.”

“Service Clubs are so important to Tillsonburg,” says Mayor Gilvesy. “They’re absolutely critical partners who pour tremendous emotional, physical and financial resources into Tillsonburg. I have asked staff to review this matter and to take the appropriate steps to ensure that issues like this are avoided in the future.”

Regarding a picture a citizen posted to social media seemingly showing the Memorial Arena floor as grey and bare on September 11, Columbus says ice-making work was already underway. “Ice making in warm conditions requires a slower process,” says Columbus. “While it may have appeared that ice-making had not begun, that was certainly not the case.”

The photo below illustrates the condition of the Memorial Park ice on the morning of September 12.

Memorial Park ice installation on morning of September 12

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