I traveled into Pomona on February 20th to spend the evening at Old Stump Brewing Company for the Youth and Family Club of Pomona Valley’s chili cook-off.
When I arrived, the brewery was already packed with beer-lovers, community members, volunteers, family and friends who sat around large tables conversing and laughing over drinks and chili.
I quickly made my way outside, to the back of the brewery, where vendors were lined side-by-side under canopies, enticing visitors with chili and a special cause: raising money for the children involved in the Youth and Family Club’s after-school program.
Each of the vendors had a small donation jar that sat on each of their tables and by the end of the night, whichever vendor had the most money won the chili cook-off.
I found myself in a large crowd surrounding the Pomona Police Department’s stand. Corporal Ernesto Rios manned the barbecue and spoke to visitors who stopped by their stand. Rios said the police department made sure to go all out for this competition.
“Because this is the first time we’ve ever made chili, we’re a little concerned about the chili,” Rios said. “We decided to go above and beyond and do a little bit of jalapeño poppers, some smoke beef sausage and a little more of the fixings.”
Despite the large crowds and many orders, Rios never let his smile slip and made time to speak with visitors, joking around and having a good time.
Rios said this is the kind of environment and atmosphere that makes being involved worth it.
“When it comes to our community we’re completely committed to the cause and that’s why we’re here today.”
I ventured off again and came across another vendor and chili cook-off competitor, Cal Poly Pomona.
The University’s stand was decorated in school colors. Their volunteers, wearing their Bronco apparel, and Bryant Fairley, director for the Center of Community Engagement at Cal Poly, led the group.
Fairley said for Cal Poly, it is not about winning the competition but showing the community support and raising money for a cause they believe in.
“For us it’s really about awareness,” Fairley said. “To let folks know that as a University we support the local club and we support education in all its levels, especially after-school and co curricular programs.”
Though it was a brewery, many families were present with small children enjoying their time together as well as adults bonding over good beer and even better conversation.
Two of the attendees I caught up with, Natalie Chaidez and Juanita Preciado from Pomona, said coming to events like this made them feel like they were truly part of a community.
“It really does make me feel like I belong in this type of community and that I could find my voice and the organizations are great in the city I live in,” Preciado said.
Chaidez mentioned how proud she was to live in a city that unifies for worthy causes like this one.
“I think one of my favorite things about Pomona is that when there are causes like this everyone kind of comes together and puts in the work to make the impact together,” Chaidez said.
The lucky winners of the night were the Pomona Police Department, who beat second place vendors State Farm by $25. All money acquired during the event will be donated to the Youth and Family Club of Pomona Valley where it will help to pay for the services provided to children in the program.
For more information on the Youth and Family Club of Pomona Valley, visit theclubpomona.org or call 909-242-1110.
Brianna Estrada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.