It started simply enough – country superstar Toby Keith was announced as playing a show on June 30 in the western suburbs of Chicago. The chance to have a big-time star play the event is a huge accomplishment for the event’s organizers, since Ribfest is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Ticket sales were announced and country music fans began to make their plans for what was sure to be an amazing summer concert.
But then, politics began to get in the way.
First reported by the “Chicago Tribune,” organizers began to get an overwhelming amount of backlash on their Facebook pages, calling for them to remove Toby from the announced Ribfest concert lineup. Many residents called Toby a “polarizing, because he had participated in President Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities.” Other comments on the Facebook page cited that some of Toby’s lyrics were “inappropriate.”
“In the current political climate, it seemed overtly polarizing and political,” Amy Kakkuri told the “Chicago Tribune,” adding that she would not be attending the event this year because of Toby’s appearance. “It would have been short-sighted for them to not expect this reaction.”
Organizers didn’t address the backlash directly, but issued a statement on Feb. 7 announcing that they would be keeping Toby as a headliner.
“Ribfest talent is negotiated and selected months in advance of the event,” organizers wrote on the event’s Facebook page. “At no time does the Exchange Club of Naperville make any political statement or endorsement. At no time are artists booked based on their political beliefs or actions. On Saturday, the Exchange Club of Naperville made a decision to allow community members to post without restriction on the club’s Ribfest Facebook page. This was done as a measure of sensitivity to the current political climate and in a spirit of cooperation with our beloved community. Ribfest’s Facebook page must return to its ‘job’ of sharing information about Ribfest. Going forward, any post that is politically charged or not focused on Ribfest will be removed.”
While Toby hasn’t commented on the controversy, you can be sure he will be there come June, eager and willing to give fans quite a performance.