If there is one thing Elks Lodge No. 1420 in Brawley knows it is how to get the community together for family fun as their sophomore Oktoberfest Rib Cook-off effort was looking like a record breaker by the time the first racks came off the grill.
Volunteers at the event on Oct. 27 at Plaza Park did such brisk business they struggled to keep up with the queue.
"We sold $1,500 worth of tickets already (by noon),” said Faye Winkler, working the ticket booth line. Great fall weather greeted hungry guests and of course the ribs ruled supreme. While many would swear by their favorites, when the official judging was over it was the team of Good Time Ferns winning first place and the $1,000 prize.
Second place and $500 went to Hidalgo Society, with Big Boys BBq claiming third for $250. As for the People's Choice, also for $250, the crowd went for the home team, Brawley Elks.
Carlos Weir, rib cook-off organizer and an Elks four-year trustee, explained there were 10 grill teams, including one from San Diego, and a dozen vendors. The day also featured several bands, including Giselle Woo & The Night Owls, winner of Coachella's 2017 battle of the bands.
As much fun as the Elks make the rib cook-off, the lodge knows how to take care of business, Weir stressed. Proceeds support a veteran's fund, the California & Hawaii Elks Lodges, which helps disabled children, and locally offers college scholarships that provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in higher education support.
"We enjoy being part of the community and getting a lot of people together on a Saturday to let people know what the Elks do," said Weir.
Lodge 1420 Grand Exalted Ruler David Griggs noted this lodge has been open nearly 100 years, forming in 1922.
"We'd like to build on the momentum for the next year," he said. "I'd like this to become a tradition the community can count on every year."
Working as part of the pit crew for the 1420 Lodge, Sal Rubalcava Jr. said one of his tips for ribs is homemade rub.
"Nobody here is an expert," he said. "But we all work together as a team and help each other out."
Big Boys BBq pit boss Brian Mendoza also disclosed the success of a great-tasting rib: "Cook it low and slow and have fun doing it. We do this as a fundraiser for the Cattle Call Queen committee. But today it's all about family, the team and having a good time."
Katie Wolfe and boyfriend Adnan Vahora were in from El Centro and sharing a container of ribs.
"We've only been to a couple of places but the sauce is really good on this one (Good Time Fern's)," she said. "But we still have a bunch more to try."
Just as eager to sample the goods was Karin Valdez, whose five-year-old son Noah was diligently decorating a pumpkin.
"I know they have some good ones (grill teams), but I'll let him (Noah) have his fun and then we'll check them out," she said.