A Ribfest to Remember

w: Johnathon E. Briggs

w: Johnathon E. Briggs

A Ribfest to Remember

Naperville, Ill. (July 3, 2017)—Fireworks emblazoned the night sky, their explosions choreographed to a patriotic simulcast from 95.9 The River, the FM station of rock ‘n roll favorites. My daughter, on the eve of her third birthday, darted across the openness of Knoch Park like the Road Runner from Looney Tunes, zigging and zagging this way and that, hopping on and off hay stacks, as I chased her playfully with abandon. My wife stood nearby, neck craned upward, watching the crackle and sparkle of the Fourth of July display and singing along to Don McLean’s “American Pie” as it blared over the PA system:

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die.”
“This’ll be the day that I die.”

This was the culmination of the 30th annual Naperville Ribfest. It was the perfect summer evening.

We stepped onto the park grounds three hours prior, not sure what to expect of our first Ribfest outing. The only thing we’d heard from friends and neighbors was: 1) be prepared for a massive crowd and, 2) make a beeline to “Ribber Row” if you want to enjoy the festivus of meat.

The crowd, as it turned out, was perfectly navigable, even with the added resistance of pushing a toddler stroller. And “Ribber Row” had enough smoky eats to satisfy any carnivore’s cravings. (Our favorite was Desperado’s BBQ & Rib Co. — known by their slogan, “Lick My Ribs”— where we got our hands sticky tasting a sampler of their fall-off-the-bone pork ribs. Yes, we needed a towelette.)   

What I didn’t expect was the childhood feeling of nostalgia that permeated the air. From the old school root beer float vendor and carnival rides to the petting zoo and apple cider stand sporting an inflatible donut roof, the carefree side of life that is often fleeting in our world was on full display.

This made sense considering Ribfest is a fundraiser put on by the Exchange Club of Naperville to raise money to help fight child abuse, prevent domestic violence and strengthen families in local communities. The event’s tagline is “It’s about the kids!” Literally, yes; but figuratively, it’s about the child within all of us.

As the Ribfest finale drew to a close, I looked up at the sky and felt as alive as the fireworks bursting in air. This was a Ribfest to remember.


Father on,


427 words


Johnathon E. BriggsA 40-something father who favors wingtips + statement socks • Husband • Autism Dad • Comic Book Fan • ΑΦΑ

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Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father. This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 44. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

In this awareness, I gained an appreciation for where I am in life and the idea for Fatherhood@Forty was born. Fatherhood@Forty is a creative outlet to blog about my experiences and inspire other (relatively) late-in-life dads. It’s been said that each child is their own assignment and I believe each parent’s journey is its own destination.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I am a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I enjoy reading comic books and binge-watching House of Cards.
  • I am a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Please email me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post: fatherhoodforty@gmail.com.

Father on,

Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Copyright © 2019 — Blank Canvas Studio, LLC | No use without permission