HOLTVILLE —On the overcast Saturday afternoon of January 14, live rock music and smoke from grilled meats mingled with hungry guests enjoying the newly revived rib cook-off hosted at Hot Rods and Beer in Holtville. Loud laughter and dancing paired well with cold beers and barbecued ribs, creating an atmosphere that celebrated community at its best.
The booths that lined the patio marked each competitors’ workspace, some representing businesses and others run by independent families. Those in matching t-shirts went on to showcase teamwork and sportsmanship at this backyard barbecue-turned-tournament.
At one booth, a man in a baseball cap wearing a shirt that read “show me your piggies” tended to a couple of racks of ribs blackening over the flames of his grill. “That’s our chef, Simon Canales,” said one team member representing LM Professional Tax Services. Fernando, a spokesperson for the team, was frank in discussing their goals for the competition. “Honestly, we don’t really even like to cook,” he said with a smile. “Our thing is just being here and helping the kids.” He explained that throughout the event, members of the Holtville baseball team helped competitors clean up and throw trash in return. Fernando and his wife have a son who grew up playing baseball, so for them, the connection to the kids was personal.
Next door, Andy Lopez and his team from Fired Up BBQ out of Imperial showed off their skill and years of experience. Though first-timers at the rib cook-off, the team has had a lot of success competing in the tri-tip cook-off for over 5 years. Despite past wins, Lopez seemed uncertain that the rib-cook off would turn out in their favor. In trying to gauge the opinion of the professional judges officiating the event, he explained that his team thought they knew what they were doing, but that didn't make victory certain. “We think we know what we’re doing, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to win,” said Lopez. He clarified that his team and family weren't in it for the money. “It’s fun and that’s why we do it," said Lopez.
Near the stage, band members traded instruments and reset gear between sets. One local band, The Valentine, shared that they were especially grateful to have the opportunity to play for guests that day. The young four-piece rock band, consisting of twin guitarists and vocalists Evelyn and Emily Gomez, alongside bassist Jorge Navarro and drummer Christian Lopez, have been a Calexico based band for some time now. “We’ve played music since we were small and we’ve always dreamed of being in a band,” said the twins. Now, it seemed, their dream had become a reality.
Thanks in part to John Prock, owner of Hot Rods and Beer, these young musicians have access to a venue that wholeheartedly believes in their potential and actively supports their future. “I want them to know that if they stay with it, there’s a future in anything that they do,” said Prock. All of the musical acts are paid, according to Prock.
Prock went as far as to lend instruments to musicians who may not have their own. For him, his commitment to community goes beyond just this event and he explained that the freedom to choose is a hallmark of what he does.
While 100% of the profits benefit the Holtville baseball team, he ensures that the teams donating their time and resources do not lose any money doing so. The event is set up so that each competitor gets the majority of their money back from ticket sales, and then can decide on their own accord what to do with the funds after covering their costs. “If they need the extra money to feed their families, feed your family,” said Prock. “This is of the people, by the people, for the people.”
This year’s winner will go on to represent the community of Holtville in Yuma’s rib-cook off event soon to follow.