Four years ago, the Petaluma Active 20-30 club struck upon the brilliant idea to have a rib cook-off as their main annual fundraiser, calling it Ribs for Kids. It seems like a no-brainer now, but at the time, Petaluma had no barbecue competitions and we were woefully shy of barbecue restaurants, except for the local favorite, Lombardi’s Gourmet Deli & BBQ.
That first year, there were a dozen competitors, but now in its fourth year, there are close to two dozen teams, warranting Ribs for Kids’ relocation to the Petaluma Community Center – Lucchesi Park at 320 North McDowell Boulevard. On Saturday, June 9, doors are open from noon to 4:30 p.m., giving guests plenty of time to vote for their favorite BBQ ribs and side dishes, and enjoy beer and wine, games for both kids and adults, a photo booth, and live music from Train Wreck Junction.
Proceeds from Ribs for Kids supports Active 20-30’s mission to serve underprivileged kids in Petaluma. Ribs for Kids funds the annual Children’s Shopping Spree, which in 2017 allowed the club to sponsor 50 local kids with new clothes, shoes, school supplies, and haircuts in preparation for back to school. With the help of both Ribs for Kids guests and competitors, they hope to sponsor even more children this year.
As with any respectable Petaluma nonprofit food event, Ribs for Kids will have silent auction and raffle prizes, including two fancy grills, a patio heater, baseballs signed by the SF Giants’ Will Clark and Hunter Pence, and gift certificates from just about every place in town. The club would like to thank all their sponsors for their donations, with Lagunitas, Three Twins, Karah Estate Vineyard, World Centric, Friedman’s, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Orchard Supply, and Xandex leading the list.
For those looking to show off their skills at the grill, the entry deadline has been extended to the beginning of next week. The $150 fee covers each team’s allotment of meat, thanks to a deep discount offered to the event each year by our local Raley’s. The entry fee also covers admission for the pit master and two assistants. Honors are awarded for best ribs and sides, both by a panel of local “celebrity” judges, and through the People’s Choice awards.
It was actually my first stint as a judge for Ribs for Kids four years ago that inspired me to get my official BBQ judge certification. When I returned for my second year, I had earned my BBQ judging wings through the Kansas City Barbeque Society. This brought me a greater appreciation for the grill masters’ skills, as well as a better understanding of what exactly to look for when judging everything from ribs to chicken to beef brisket.
I judge a lot of food and drink competitions each year, both locally and afar, but none are as enjoyable, or offer as high a quality of tasting experience as the Ribs for Kids BBQ competition. The camaraderie among the teams exemplifies the true goal of the event, which is to support our community, especially our underprivileged kids. There is also a great sense of fellowship among the judges, all of whom are community leaders in their own rights, and always enjoy helping this worthy cause.
This year’s judges include myself, Mike Harris (Petaluma mayoral candidate, and all around community supporter), Ana Keller (owner of Keller Estates and driving force behind our Petaluma Gap AVA), Laurie Figone (award-winning chef, TV personality, and cookbook author), Nariman Manoochehri (co-founder and vice president of operations for Xandex, Inc.), Ken Quinto (manager of development operations for Social Advocates for Youth, a Sonoma County nonprofit), Dan Ancheta (President of the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce, Rotarian, and avid community volunteer), and Chadwick Anderson (local mortgage broker and long-time Active 20-30 member.)