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Lathrop cooking up 2nd annual BBQ competition
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LATHROP – San Joaquin Valley’s sizzling hot summer in July is facing some stiff competition this year.

The challenge will be coming from all the heat generated by the anticipated dozen or so contestants vying for the trophy and bragging rights in the second annual International BBQ Competition sponsored by the Lathrop Senior Advisory Commission. The outdoor cook-off contest featuring the area’s best barbecue chefs will be held at Valverde Park in historic Old Town District on Saturday, July 17.

The daylong family-oriented food, fun and games extravaganza is poised to be even bigger and better this year. In addition to the main bill of fare, which is the barbecue throw-down, Lathrop Senior Center manager Christopher Lawrence said the Youth Advisory Commission, which has been invited to be part of the program this year, will be introducing games and activities geared toward the teen-age and pre-teen groups.

“We try to cater to the whole dimension of people. We want to see this as a nice, safe family event,” Lawrence said.

“Last year, it went really well. Over the span of the day, we had over 500 people. At first, everybody was a little worried but it went very, very smoothly. We’re hoping to have in the neighborhood of 1,000 people this year. We’ll double everything that we had last year – we got a stage, several bands including the Mike Torres Band, and The Core from Modesto. There will be four to five bands intermixed with the Youth Focus,” he said.

Let the good times roll
“Our theme this year is, ‘let the good times roll.’ Last year, the theme was, ‘we hope this works!’” Lawrence added with a laugh.

The maiden launch of the barbecue challenge last year proved to such a success that, already, four or five who were in the first competition have already signed up again for this year, Lawrence said.

To be a barbecue contender, one has to fill out the necessary form and pay the entrance fees.

There will be two categories: ribs and bone-in chicken. Entry fee for the ribs challenge is $30 per person; $25 each for the chicken. For those who want to participate in both cooking categories, the total entry fee is $45.

“The ribs grillers will get a rack of ribs from Famous Dave’s that will be raw,” Lawrence said.

Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que Restaurants and Catering is one of the major sponsors of this event.

“We’re looking for grillers. We’re looking to sign people up. There are 20 spots available, as many as we can put in (the parking lot) and still get the blessing from the fire district,” Lawrence said.

No gas-powered barbecue grills will be allowed; only charcoal and wood which will be supplied by the participants including the portable grill, he said.

“This is going to be very tightly controlled,” Lawrence added about the safety issues involved.

They have not lined up the judges yet but he expects to see about five to seven of them in each category. There were 10 judges last year who gave their nod to Dixie Chaney, the mother of a Lathrop soldier who was in Iraq at that time. Interestingly enough, it was the son who learned about the competition via an online story and encouraged his mother to sign up.

“She won hands down,” Lawrence said.

While a trophy will be awarded to the overall winner, the second and third place finishers will receive recognition as well. A perpetual plaque with the names of the winners will be displayed in the Senior Center.

There will be food available for sale, with proceeds also going to the Senior Advisory Commission. Since everybody does not like ribs, there will be chicken as well as cheeseburgers and hot dogs available, Lawrence said.

There will be information booths plus concession stands as well. These will be available to city groups only such as the Lathrop Seniors Club which will be selling cotton candy and popcorn plus drinks and ice cream.

For young children, there will be two bounce houses near the playground area.

Additional fun will be provided by the Lathrop Lions Club which will be conducting a drawing for various door prizes.

The barbecue competition is being sponsored by the City of Lathrop, Famous Dave’s, J.R. Simplot, Costco, Allied Waste, Walgreens, Holiday Inn Express, Delta Power Sports, Lathrop Lions, and the SEIU (Service Employees International Union), among others.

Lawrence said they are still looking for more sponsors whose donations to the extravaganza could be in the form of food products, gift certificates to purchase food, gifts or services, and table-room decorations. Sponsors will, in return, be acknowledged by having their logos on the 5,000 flyers that will be distributed, and their names plus logos displayed on two 3-foot by 6-foot banners that will displayed on two prominent high-traffic areas in the city.

For more information about the barbecue competition, or to be a sponsor, call Christopher Lawrence at (209) 941-7382.