SALINAS — Old Town Throw Down, a barbecue fundraiser for the 2021 Monterey County Veteran’s Day Parade, raised an estimated $5,000 for the event last Saturday and had an attendance of about 5,000 guests.
Pork rib tickets sold out within the first hour of the Aug. 21 fundraiser that was held adjacent to the Sixth Annual Salinas PAL Car Show, which itself featured 200 exhibitors and drew a crowd of around 10,000 spectators.
“The mood and tempo over here was an extremely positive event in these trying times, especially for our military,” said Tony Virrueta, one of the parade committee organizers. “Because of last year’s Covid restrictions, everybody was waiting to come outside and take a big deep breath of fresh air. They came out in droves.”
The barbecue began with five military teams showing up to their cookout at 4 a.m. in Oldtown Salinas. There was a team each from the Army and Marine Corps, as well as three American Legion groups, Greenfield Post 635, Soledad Post 32 and Monterey Post 41, competing for the annual trophy.
A total of 40 soldiers and veterans cooked 240 racks of pork spare ribs for the event, which was part fundraiser, part contest and part community celebration.
“All those teams volunteered their time to come out and barbecue, that’s their service toward the Veteran’s Day Parade,” Virrueta said.
Judges for this year’s Throw Down were Congressman Jimmy Panetta, Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig, Salinas City Manager Steve Carrigan, KION Chief Meteorologist Dann Cianca, Salinas City Elementary School District Superintendent Rebeca Andrade and Garrison Commander for Presidio of Monterey Col. Varman Chhoeung.
The Army team won this year’s cookout, and Greenfield American Legion took second place.
“They’re all a winner,” Virrueta said. “When they pass that trophy along, every single team cheers with them.”
The total cost for the annual Veteran’s Day Parade is in the range of $20,000, which includes the city costs, administration fees and insurance.
“The reason we raise that money to have a parade is so anyone who wants to participate in the parade can participate for free,” Virrueta explained. There is no entrance fee for participants, only a waiver signing and request to wear stars and stripes.
In addition to the cookout, the parade committee attends the Salinas Farmer’s Market weekly to sell merchandise, including T-shirts and hats.
Virrueta said sponsorships took a dip with the Covid-19 pandemic, but he directly thanked A&G Pumping of King City with sponsoring portable restrooms for the cookout.
The parade itself is a countywide event, and Virrueta noted there have been past participants from as far away as San Jose and Los Angeles. Last year’s event was virtual, but did honor local veterans by having them tell their stories in recorded interviews.
“It taps into the history of Monterey County veterans,” Virrueta said about the parade. “With the former Fort Ord, Fort Hunter Liggett to the south, Naval Postgraduate School, Camp Roberts, all that, you tap into that and find second and third generations of veterans here.”