Rib & Chicken Fest
A Flavorful Feast
By Megan Peralta
Ramonans better get ready, because the Ramona Community 14th Annual Rib & Chicken Fest is right around the corner.
On Saturday, June 22, everyone who loves barbecue ribs, chicken, bake sales and good company can enjoy an all-you-can-eat dinner, which will be serving from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Olive Peirce Middle School Charles R. Nunn Performing Arts Center, located at 1521 Hanson Ln.
Pre-sale adult tickets are $15 per person, available weekdays at Ramona Senior Center, 434 Aqua Ln. The price is $20 at the door. Tickets for children age 12 and under are $12, and to-go dinners are $15.
Call 760-789-0440 or visit www.ramonaseniorcenter.comfor information. Proceeds will benefit the Ramona Senior Nutrition Program.
The menu includes baby back ribs, chicken, potato salad and coleslaw. Also available will be a selection of beverages, bake sale goods and fun activities. Guests may also take advantage of the craft fair, silent auction and face painting — with paint, not barbecue sauce.
According to Ramona Senior Center Executive Director Lora Cicalo, the event was initiated by former Executive Director Ray Cardona and then-board member and community volunteer Pete Bakarich, who thought it would be a good community event. And boy, were they right.
These days, it takes about 2,500 pounds of ribs and 800 pounds of chicken to feed an average of 1,100 people who come through the doors. In the beginning, the event was held at the Senior Center, and then outgrew the facility and moved to the ROCC grounds. But it kept growing in popularity, such that it has graduated to Olive Peirce Middle School.
“You have to cook from 4 a.m. to about 2 p.m.,” says Cicalo, who has been working at Ramona Senior Center for almost 20 years, when she started volunteering as a cook in the kitchen. She was promoted to assistant cook and then head cook, and about two and a half years ago, she began working in the office.
On the subject of working with seniors, Cicalo says, “They’re like my second family here. We serve lunch to our congregate seniors who can come in. We also do Ramona Meals on Wheels. We serve about 5,000 meals to local seniors in Ramona and in eight different Zip codes in the backcountry each month.”
For her, one of the best parts of the fest is getting to talk to the people who come.
“It’s very rewarding when you hear what everyone else has to say about (the meal),” she says.
And that makes sense, since it takes so much work to host the event each year.
In addition to having to get up before daybreak to start cooking, volunteers gather the day before for a rib-wrapping party, where they create an assembly-line system, applying barbecue sauce, wrapping the ribs in aluminum foil, bagging cookies for the bake sale and loading the truck.
“The community pulls together with us for this — that’s what’s amazing,” says Cicalo. “Nobody’s paid to do this. Even my staff here are all volunteer basis, and everyone for the event is volunteer.
“Without the community, we can’t do it.”
Published in the May 30th issue of the Ramona Home Journal