Yuma, Arizona - “50 miles?! 50 miles away from here?” She acted like I’d asked her to walk to Somalia over broken glass. That was one of the responses I received after mentioning (several times) on the Matador Sports Network about Matador Athletics’ participation in the annual Holtville Athletic Club Rib Cook-off.

That’s how far away from Yuma that Holtville is, I calmly explained. “That’s a long way to go for ribs,” was the reply I got… and at that point, the conversation was over.

She’s obviously never been there. Because otherwise, she’d know that that 1/3 of a tank of gas was more than worth it. I’ve only been to one of these… when I was still News Director at KYMA. And, admittedly, it wasn’t Mother Nature’s kindest year for this event. That year, she was doing a lot of ’exhaling’, and the wind was whipping through the event. Still, not even Ma Nature could chase away that ‘whiff’. The whiff that conjured up thoughts of Warner Brothers cartoon characters letting their noses follow a irresistible scent to its source. There is nothing quite like the whiff of great barbecue. Multiply that times 10… or 20… or 50… and you’re in Holtville on a Saturday morning in January. What struck me immediately that day was that no matter whether it was weather issues, the rush of business to their booth, or even the realization that they’d forgotten an important piece of equipment, those cooking up these creations remained undaunted in their quest for perfection. Workmanlike. Focused. “Can’t make good ribs without a plan,” one person told me. 

That plan is part of a greater one. Fantastic, in fact. Your donation to the cause brings a little more happiness to student-athletes. All over the Imperial Valley. To the Matador Athletic Association… which is the main provider for student-athletes at AWC. To kids all around the Desert Southwest. The Holtville Athletic Club puts together a plan that is multi-pronged. Plotting a date. Invitations to come cook. Marketing. Advertising. And no matter what the question might be from those getting involved in it-or how ridiculous you might think the question was before you asked it-they seem to calmly know the answer. We could all take a page from that book, couldn’t we?

And in this area, at this time of year, there’s 50 things going on each weekend. Heck, we at AWC have a 3-day baseball tournament and two basketball games alone this weekend. Not to mention, our fall sports coaches are in a frenzy with recruiting. And yet, those from AWC that can (and in some ways, can’t) are making time to be part of this… because they know the value… and can see it… and on Saturday, taste it. They’ll join 15,000-20,000 others that seem to have no problem finding Holtville… or using the gas (by the way, it’s Interstate 8 to Highway 115 (or Orchard Road, for those of you who know the way by heart).

10:00AM California time “’till all the ribs are gone’. For your first-timers, that would translate to ‘don’t wait until 1:00 in the afternoon, or you’ll be hungry the rest of the day.’ And for that lady who thought that 50 miles in a car was just too backbreaking… gosh, I’m sorry you feel that way. ‘By the way, sir, can I have her portion?!’