Viola Cafe group wins top prize at Carrot Festival Rib Cook-Off

February 04, 2002|By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — The group known as Viola Cafe walked off with the coveted judges choice award and the top prize of $1,000 at the 11th annual Rib Cook-Off here.

Viola Cafe was made up of Vessey & Co., Farmers Outlet and Sierra Packing.

Placing second and receiving $500 was a group made up of the Holtville Chamber of Commerce and members of the City Hall staff. Getting third place and winning $250 was Advanced Wireless. In fourth place, winning $125, was Empire Machinery.

The Holtville chamber group won the coveted Pinnacle Award and earned "bragging rights" for the next year for selling the most ribs. The 5-foot trophy went home with Ed Rodriguez, ramrod of the group.

Judges for the event were members of the Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team: Chris Dahl, Russ Wicker, James Philpott, Paul Ratliff and Rashay Douglas. The group members said they had a "difficult time" choosing the best ribs and agreed all the ribs were wonderful.


Cash prizes went to teams with the best booths. First place went to Viola Cafe, second went to the Holtville chamber, third went to AM Desert Storm Concrete and fourth went to Rodgers Food.

The Holtville chamber group won the best side dish category with asparagus and chicken stir fry and Louisiana rice. Coming in second was Viola Cafe; third place went to AM Desert Storm Concrete and fourth went to The Dune Co. of Imperial Valley.

AM Desert Storm Concrete and Advanced Wireless both returned the prize money to the Holtville Athletic Club, which sponsors the event each year.

Renowned kitchen wizard Pauline McConnell of El Centro took first place and $100 in the homemade ice cream contest with "Carrot Pecan." Placing second and winning $75 were Billy and Bethany Lehman of Holtville with "Praline Fudge." Coming in third and winning $50 was Ron Childers of Imperial with "Cherry Chocolate Chunk." Karol Counce of El Centro came in fourth with "Mandarin Macadamia."

Chairing the ice cream contest were Shannon Lehman and DeAnn Hilfiker.

For almost all the 55 years of the Carrot Festival, and the 11 years of the Rib Cook-Off the weather has been beautiful. Sunday was no exception. Several thousand people turned out for the cook-off and devoured more than 4 tons of ribs.

Cook-Off co-chairmen Rudy Schaffner and Doug Byram, and the hard-working members of the Holtville Athletic Club, are responsible for the favorable response every year.

Visitors to the event were elated with the hand-washing station that was new this year, provided by Klicka, Parker Insurance Brokers of Brawley. The four-basin chrome set-up provided welcome relief for rib-eating visitors with sauce-stained hands.

Gene Brister of KXO Radio in El Centro served as the official announcer for the cook-off. Mark Brooks and the Rhythm Rangers from Phoenix provided entertainment throughout the day.

Sunday's event was in a new location at the old Babe Ruth Park, now known as Ralph Samaha Park. The HAC sponsored event outgrew Holt Park. With many of the vendors staying at Holt Park for the weekend, there was not enough room to accommodate all the teams and people who flocked to the Sunday event. The new location was easy to spot with the huge red, white and blue balloon arch over the park.

Schaffner said he had not received a single complaint about the new location. He and the HAC were grateful to the city and nearby residents for allowing the closure of two blocks of Holt Avenue for the day to accommodate the cook-off.

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