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Petaluma’s Ribs for Kids event is fun for all

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In only its second year, Ribs for Kids welcomes back an expanded field of competitors, an exciting new panel of judges and a kid-friendly location, which is apropos for an event that raises money for local youth focused charities.

The June 18 event is presented by the Petaluma Active 20-30 Club, a group of men and women between the ages of 20 and 39 that strives to foster personal growth, friendship, networking skills and leadership development through pursuits that have a positive impact in the community, mainly through work to help improve the quality of life for less advantaged children.

Active 20-30 International’s motto is, “One never stands so tall as when kneeling to help a child.” The Petaluma Active 20-30 Club’s fundraising efforts go toward its yearly Children’s Shopping Spree, where disadvantaged youth are given a free shopping spree at Kohl’s of Petaluma.

Looking to do something a bit different than the normal golf tournament, crab feed or gala evening, Active 20-30 realized in 2014 that Petaluma had no barbecue competitions. But unlike professional barbecue competitions with strict rules about cooking and judging, Ribs for Kids is more about camaraderie and fundraising for local kids.

“Yes, we have rules and actually a judging system, but the thing we love about this event is that the competitors are regular people,” said Matthew J. Larrabure, the event organizer. “There are other barbecue events for professionals, who drive in from out of state, but our event is for locals who enjoy grilling and barbecuing and want to compete in a fun atmosphere and, in the end, help support the children of our community, because that is what it is all about.”

The club learned a lot from the inaugural Ribs for Kids event, primarily that they needed more space.

“Mario & John’s was a great location for our first year, but space was limited,” Larrabure said. “We were looking to expand and were lucky to partner with the First Presbyterian Church (at 939 B St.), who are letting us use their entire grounds.”

The new location will not only have space for live entertainment and games, but will also allow patrons to bring their kids, which was not a possibility at last year’s bar location. This year’s event will also offer sides, such as fruit, coleslaw and corn-on-the-cob.

Event sponsors include Fishman Supply, Petaluma Hills Brewing Company, Mario & John’s, Vine & Barrel, Graffiti, City Sports Club and Korbel California Champagne.

Differentiating themselves from nationally-sanctioned barbecue events, where competitors spend vast amounts of time and money preparing for competition, the entry fee for Ribs for Kids includes the cost of ribs, which are supplied to event organizers at a deep discount by Raley’s.

Each team sets up their equipment first thing in the morning, and once they receive their eight racks of baby back ribs, the magic begins.

“Some people go basic, some with a spice rub, some with traditional barbecue sauce, and some even experiment with a fruity flare,” Larrabure said. “There is no ideal or perfect sauce. The key is to cook the ribs properly.”

Although the entry deadline has passed, organizers have extended a special deadline for Argus-Courier readers to June 11. For anyone interested in trying a rib competition, whether you have your own secret recipe or not, this is a great way to put your toe in the proverbial barbecue sauce, all while helping disadvantaged kids.

After years of slim pickings in the barbecue department, Petaluma seems to finally have come into its own with the opening of several fall-off-the-bone ribs, tender beef brisket and finger-licking good pulled pork restaurants. However, for an even wider array of barbecue flavors in one place, Ribs for Kids is a great event where the public can reap the sweet and savory benefits of an amateur barbecue competition, all while helping to raise money for a great cause.

The June 18 event is from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 939 B St. Pre-sale tickets are $30, or $35 at the door. Ages 13 through 20 are $20, or $25 at the door. Kids ages 12 and younger are free.