New rib kings

It’s been 10 years since the club’s last win, but the long-shot Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis Club now cherishes the “Best Ribs in the Mountains” title as voted on by nearly 300 people who attended the June 20, Oakhurst Community Center Rib Fest.

The Oakhurst Sierra Rotary (noon) Club brought their A-team of Robert Brosi, Doug Macaulay, Fern Facchino, and Scott and Annette Pearl to defend their title, but were upset by the Kiwanis. The Noon Rotary Club at one time won the title three consecutive years (2009 - 2011), and have a total of six wins in the 16 years of the event.

Known for their bi-monthly pancake breakfasts held at the center, the Kiwanis Club now has the bragging rights, at least for the next year, as the new barbecue kings of Oakhurst.

The event raised a record-breaking $18,500 for upkeep and improvements to the community center.

Unlike past years, those attending the event voted for their favorite ribs, as opposed to a small panel of judges.

The Kiwanis, led by head chef Bob Spinelli, consisted of Mike Lindman, Rich McRae, Bob Hunting, Ed George, Ray Vetter, and Harvey Left.

Spinelli said the victory was a team effort with club members divided into four teams - the ‘rub’ team was Lindman, McRae, Hunting - the barbecue ‘sauce’ makers were Hunting, and McRae - the ‘bake’ team consisted of George, and Spinelli - and the ‘grilling’ team was Left, Vetter, and Spinelli.

“It is great to see how the team pulled together and finally got the winning combination,” Spinelli said. “We have been trying to dethrone the other service organizations for quite some time now. We stuck to the same recipe and process we used last year, but we did not get the attention of the judging committee. This year the judging was done by the people at the dinner who voted for their favorite. I was told that there were no Kiwanis ribs left over at the end of the event, which means everyone must have enjoyed them.”

Spinelli said there used to be a perpetual trophy that the winner received each year, to be passed on to the next year’s winner.

“When the Kiwanis won the first time, the Rotary Club had somehow lost the trophy that was to be presented to us,” Spinelli said with a smile.

Spinelli said the club has been persistent in its efforts to win back the bragging rights, and it has been a long, and frustrating 10 years.

He said it was a great win for the club, especially on the night the community was celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Oakhurst Community Center.

“We take this serious, but it’s all in fun and for a very good cause,” Spinelli said.

Brosi said it’s hard to repeat the title, especially working with new equipment.

“It just wasn’t meant to be,” Brosi said. “Everyone wants to knock off the best, and my hat’s off to the Kiwanas - but we will be back.”

The three other clubs in this year’s competition were Sierra Sunrise Rotary, Sierra Lions, and the Elk’s Lodge.

In addition to the ribs, baked beans and cole-slaw were provided by the Soroptimist International of the Sierras, garlic French bread prepared by Nora Hunting, and home-made cookies and ice cream from Mountain Community Women for desert.

Helen Pittman and her husband John were among the many who enjoyed the event.

“This event is a lot of fun,” Helen said. “Everything was so good ... including all the ribs, the baked beans, and cole-slaw.”

In addition to dinner tickets, a live auction, which included four tickets to Disneyland, a leaf blower, field trimmer, half-day on Bass Lake on a Miller’s Landing Resort party barge, a digital electric smoker, a fire pit with rotating grill, a Japanese maple tree, and veterinary services from Hoof & Paw Veterinary Hospital, raised $1,800 with additional funds coming from a 50/50 raffle.

Dale Miller, president of the community center board of directors, assisted Tim Madden in drawing the winners of the Sierra Sunrise Rotary Club car drawing. Jerry Kepler, a retired police officer from San Jose, won the 1982 Porsche 928S, the grand prize of the raffle. The club has been selling $20 raffle tickets for the car, donated by an anonymous donor, for a few months. Madden noted that nearly $8,000 was raised from the raffle, with proceeds being divided between the community center, Sierra Senior Center, and the Oakhurst Library.

Other Rotary gift card raffle winners were Eldon Dale ($1,000), Rima Runtzel ($500), Danna Allen ($250), and Dave Mandeville ($250).

Miller thanked the generous contributors to the event, and the community members who attended.

“I want to thank the service clubs for their involvement and support of the community center and public for their attendance,” Miller said. “It takes a lot of money to keep the community center and grounds in good shape, and without the Rib Fest and community support, the center would really struggle. This is a facility we must all do what we can to keep it running for another 50 years.”

Dottie Lee, vice president of the community center board, and chairperson of the event, thanked all the sponsors and the community who turned out to support the community center.

Helping serve the dinner and bus tables were Yosemite and Glacier high school students.