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Maldonado, Pitts grill their way to the top in Lathrop
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LATHROP – Michael Maldonado and Shea Pitts know how to grill.

The duo, who entered the third annual Lathrop BBQ Competition and Festival as “Slap Ya Mama Barbecue,” took the top honors in both categories – chicken and ribs – during kast Saturday’s cook-off at Valverde Park.

Both Maldonado and Pitts will take the bragging rights from previous winner Dixie Chaney, who had won in both categories the previous two years.

But while the BBQ cook-off was the main draw of the afternoon event, organizers added a handful of other options to keep residents occupied and open up the day for families to come and enjoy spending time with other people in the community.

By adding vendors, a train ride, a bounce house and periodic eating contests that drew large crowds, organizers were able to draw people in that they believe ordinarily wouldn’t spend as much time at the event.

And even though the eating contests worried Senior Center Director Chris Lawrence, they went off without a hitch and were a huge hit with the community.

“I was a little bit nervous about how they were going to turn out. We had paramedics there in case anything happened,” Lawrence said. “But it turned out to be very popular with people. I’m sure that it’s something that we’ll have back again next year. It drew a large crowd. “

Jordan Neely took home the blue ribbon for winning the kids pizza eating contest, and Kevin Russ won the adult pizza class.

Lawrence worked tirelessly on the event with members of the senior advisory commission for months to get everything organized. He’s happy to be able to breathe a sigh of relief now that it’s over and he can evaluate how everything went.

It also gives him a chance to thank all of the volunteers that made the event possible.

“Without them this isn’t something that would happen,” Lawrence said. “They made the entire thing possible. Some people want to take the credit but this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are so many people that worked together to get this going, and they did such a tremendous job.”

In order to thank those who donated their time to help make the event possible, the senior advisory commission hosted a complimentary dinner for volunteers.

“It’ll be a chance to say thank you,” Lawrence said. “This is an event still in its infancy. We believe this is something that can grow based on the number of people that have kept coming back year after year. We appreciate that, and can’t wait to see where this goes.”