Rock and Ribs fundraiser set for Showmen’s Association

Published on: June 4, 2014

By KEVIN BRADY

Youngsters help out at the Showmen’s Association Christmas charity dinner last December. More than 250 disabled youngsters received presents at the event, one of many such charitable events the Association supports throughout the year. International Independent Showmen’s Association photo

Youngsters help out at the Showmen’s Association Christmas charity dinner last December. More than 250 disabled youngsters received presents at the event, one of many such charitable events the Association supports throughout the year.
International Independent Showmen’s Association photo

Fancy a taste of some of the best ribs in Florida while listening to local bands?

Then mark June 21 on your calendar and head to the International Independent Showmen’s Association. The group will be hosting its first Rock and Ribs on the River event. And those ribs should taste even better knowing all the money raised at the event near the Alafia River goes to local charities the Association has been quietly supporting for decades.

The 12-hour event — doors open at 10 a.m. — will feature competitive barbecue, local bands, as well as vendors and activities for youngsters. Admission to the event at 6915 Riverview Drive, Gibsonton, is free, with visitors exchanging cash for Rib Bucks that they can use at vendors’ booths and to buy the ribs. With lots of indoor space, weather should not be a factor for the event.

“Vendor response has been phenomenal so far,” said Randy Burnett, who runs the Carousel Club at the Association, and who is helping organize the first of what he hopes are many Rock and Rib events. “I’ve already had calls from all over Florida from vendors who want to participate,” he said. “It’s something we have been thinking about for a long time.”

The Association has been supporting local charities for years, very quietly and without any publicity, with money going to the Shriners Children’s Hospital, hospice groups and Moffitt Cancer Center, among others. “People don’t realize how much the association does,” Burnett said.

“Back in the old days, when you mentioned Gibsonton or Riverview, people would say ‘oh, those old carnies.’ ” While some snubbed the retired entertainers who toured the country tirelessly, they didn’t know that those “carnies” were doing charitable work in the background.

“The older carnies never really cared what people thought, but a younger generation has come in now,” said Burnett. “So last November we cooked about 70 turkeys and 40 hams and fed the homeless for Thanksgiving.”

The club followed that up with a Christmas party for handicapped children, and almost 400 youngsters went home with gifts. That was followed by a Christmas party for the elderly from local nursing homes who might otherwise spend Christmas alone.

With Riverview High School’s culinary department cooking the dinner, the seniors were treated to a first-class meal and evening out with singing and music. They also left with a gift bag. “When they get here they are scared and lonely, but when they leave they are on top of the world,” said Burnett, who owns a Riverview landscape supply company.

Burnett has no expectations for how many people will show up for Rock and Ribs, but he does have one hope: “I hope after the event the girls in the office come to me and say ‘we don’t have to work so hard this year because you raised so much money,’” he said.

Established in 1966 as a nonprofit organization, the Association is the largest showmen’s association in the United States. It is home to more than 4,500 members within the outdoor amusement industry, consisting of employees, ride owners, concessionaires, manufacturers and suppliers.

For more information on the event, call 813-918-9237.

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