By Pam Dillon
Forget throwing a few wieners on the grill. This summer, the kids and I experienced the barbecue of all barbecues at the Rideau Carleton Raceway (RCR). It was colossal. And super fun. Imagine burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, cake, drinks and hundreds of families having a blast. Now that’s a barbecue, people.
Young’uns were feeding carrots to horses and playing in Toria’s Kids Zone, an enticing grassy realm full of all sorts of attractions and activities, including a bouncy castle, an inflatable slide, mascots, popcorn and snow cones. The grownups were in their element too, socializing, enjoying the lovely setting and taking advantage of the impressive facilities at the Rideau Carleton Entertainment Centre at 4837 Albion Road.
And talk about a crowd! I got to visit with people I haven’t seen in years and to meet people I’ve written about but never met. They ranged from the amazing Karisa Karmali (whose beauty had the young guys practically panting) to my kid’s grade-school tutor. (*Note to Mrs. Hopkins: You’ll be happy to know he made the dean’s list at university this year.) I even saw my society friend Erlene, whose wardrobe I covet and whose usual haunts include Paris and Madrid.
All this summer magic came about via MPP Lisa MacLeod’s annual free BBQ and foodraiser for local food banks. It’s the eighth year the MPP for Nepean-Carleton has hosted her popular community barbecue and this 2013 event was spectacular.
The kids and I helped out at it – shucking corn, inflating helium balloons, collecting bags and bags of donated non-perishable food items – as part of a big team that included the RCR’s Sue McDonald and Anne Davis.
What an adventure! Who knew people would begin arriving at 4 p.m. for a 6 p.m. barbecue? Who knew, as the minutes ticked down, all the elements of a big event would fall domino-like into place? I now know I am an amateur in hospitality and fun times for 1000-plus people.
Truth is, at this barbecue good things happened for all sorts of families. Volunteers with the Kidney Foundation distributed green ribbon pins to promote organ donation. beadonor.ca. Maybe lives will be saved. And loads of food were collected for families who will need it in the coming months.
It was a pleasure to have my family involved and I’ve got to tell you: I loved the venue. Since there’s a casino on site and the main entrance to the dining room is through the slots and gaming area, you might not think the Rideau Carleton Raceway is a spot to bring your youngsters. Actually, it’s a great place for family fun. Now, Anne Davis explains, children (under age 19) are welcome in the RCR dining room on Thursdays from 5 to 10 p.m. for the dinner buffet. There’s a family entrance on the south side of the facility and you can easily get to it by parking in the south parking lot.
Children are also welcome – via the family entrance – on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. A Sunday buffet brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on both Sundays and Thursdays there’s a dinner buffet from 5 to 10 p.m. Kids under age five eat for free and these buffet-spreads always offer quite a feast for all ages. There’s no shortage of thrills either. Live harness racing is featured every Sunday and Thursday starting at 6:30 p.m. and the youngsters will undoubtedly think that’s pretty exciting too.
For car buffs in the family, there’s also cruise night each Wednesday from 4 to 9 p.m. in the south parking lot. It’s a showcase of classic, antique and vintage automobiles, trucks and motorcycles.
Honestly? The Rideau Carleton Raceway is a pretty exciting, welcoming spot and a great place to take your family. See www.rcr.net.