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Lathrop soldier in Iraq bullish on BBQ cookout
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• WHAT: International Amateur BBQ Competition and Festival
• WHEN: Saturday, July 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• WHERE: Valverde Park on Fifth Street in Lathrop
• HIGHLIGHTS: Barbecue competition, square dancing, face painting, live music and more.
• TO ENTER BBQ COMPETITION: Call Lathrop Senior Center, 941-7380.

LATHROP – What does an American soldier serving in Iraq have to do with the International Amateur BBQ Cookout Competition and Festival this Saturday in Lathrop?

Here’s the connection, as told by the Rev. Lucius Davis who is chairing this first-time ever event sponsored by the Lathrop Senior Advisory Commission.

A soldier in Iraq learned about the upcoming barbecue competition and immediately called his mother in Lathrop. Davis, who is chairman of the advisory commission, did not elaborate how the soldier found out about the contest.

“He told his mom to be sure and enter this contest!” said an enthused Davis while doing a promo announcement for the event at the Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Apparently realizing what a good cook his mother is when it comes to barbecued dishes, the soldier was confident she could easily win one of the prizes and wanted to make sure she signs up for the competition, Davis said.

Noting the various individuals who have so far added their names to the list of competitors, a smiling Davis said, “We have a great international community here!”

Two of the awards awaiting the winners in the barbecue cookout, as voted by a panel of “local celebrity” judges, will be “Best BBQ in the Valley,” and “Best Qologist in Lathrop.”

But, perhaps the best part of this cookout and festival, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is that “it’s not going to cost the city a dime,” Davis proudly pointed out during his short promo speech before the council Tuesday night.

He added that the cookout is just one of the many programs and projects being offered by the Lathrop senior citizens group.

“We’re not just little old people over there,” Davis said toungue-in-cheek.

More than a dozen would-be barbecue chefs are expected to show up at Valverde Park on Saturday and vie for the judges’ nods. Senior Center Manager Chris Lawrence said there will be two categories in the cookout: chicken and pork. Contestants may choose to take part in both or simply choose one category. The entry fee for just one category is $20 per person; $28 for those who want to compete in both.

According to the rules, contestants are expected to bring all of their meat, grills (only the types usually seen at tailgate parties are allowed), charcoal (no gas grills allowed), and everything else that the cooks will need.

Food and fun at festival for family
Along with the cookout will be a festival featuring live musical entertainment, barbecue dinners by Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que of Tracy which will be on sale, bounce houses for kids, cultural dances, an antique fire truck, square dancing, martial arts demonstrations, Delta PowerSports demonstrations, raffles, and others.

Partnering with the Lathrop Senior Advisory Commission as sponsors of this summer event are Best Western Plaza Inn and Suites of Lathrop, Allied Waste, Delta Power Sports of Lathrop, Calif., Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que, Walgreens, Lathrop Rotary and Flecko’s Hair Salon in Lathrop.

If you bring one of the flyers that have been circulating and advertising the barbecue cookout, present it at the event and it will entitle you to a $1 discount off a Famous Dave’s meal. Donation for the meal, prepared by the Tracy barbecue restaurant, is $10 each for adults; $6 for children up to age 12. The Rev. Davis said the meal promises to be a really filling one with Famous Dave’s barbecued ribs or chicken, homemade potato salad, roll, corn and cole slaw. Cost for drinks will be separate.

Lathrop Senior Center manager Chris Lawrence said Famous Dave’s is donating all of the barbecued meat for the meals. The food will be served inside the Senior Center where advance tickets can be purchased before Saturday. Tickets will be available also the day of the event.

The barbecue cook-off will be held in Valverde’s parking lot.

Admission to the barbecue cookout and festival is free.

All proceeds will benefit various senior projects and programs.

For more information about signing up for the barbecue competition or to pre-order a Famous Dave’s meal, call the Senior Center at 941-7380.

Valverde Park is located on Fifth Street in the Old Town District.