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Huge Community Turnout For Free Drive-Thru BBQ
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Cars form two lines in front of Pioneer Park on their way to picking up a free BBQ lunch provided by the City of Riverbank and Riverbank Police Services. They needed officers in several places along the route to help cars merge into the single line at the distribution tents in front of the Scout Hall at the Friday, Sept. 4 event. Ric McGinnis/The News
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Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien lends a hand distributing free BBQ lunches on Friday in front of Scout Hall on High Street. The Sept. 4 event helped kick off the Labor Day holiday weekend and was hosted by the City and Riverbank Police Services. Ric McGinnis/The News

The City of Riverbank and Riverbank Police Services (RPS) hosted a free Community Drive-thru BBQ at Pioneer Park last Friday, Sept. 4. The participation was greater than expected and authorities were delighted to interact with the community and provide a meal. The traffic on First and High streets was a very telling sign of the highly attended drive-thru event.

Volunteers out on the scene included RPS Chief Ed Ridenour, Mayor Richard O’Brien, Vice Mayor Luis Uribe, and City Manager Sean Scully as well as the Sheriff’s Employee Foundation’s Tactical Culinary Unit, three Explorers and three CSOs, Community Service Officers.

“We had a great turn out, even more than we expected,” stated Ridenour. “Everyone seemed very appreciative and thankful for the event. It was just a small way to feed the less fortunate and give back to the community.”

Prior to the BBQ that started at noon on Friday the volunteers at the event assisted with the food distribution at the Scout Hall to feed approximately 117 families. Several of them also made their back to the BBQ for lunch.

“I want to thank everyone who came out to the event and all that volunteered,” expressed Ridenour. “I’m sorry if we were not able to serve everyone. We learned from this event and will make changes when we have similar events going forward.”

The idea for the BBQ was conceived in a combined effort to connect with the community. Living in a time where handshakes and hugs are non-existent and social distancing is the new norm, people are getting creative devising ways to continue human interactions to stay connected.

“This far exceeded our expectation and every resident was so appreciative and thankful for what we did,” remarked Uribe. “COVID-19 has kept a lot of people at home so this drive thru event was a way to safely interact in person with residents. I saw a lot of smiles and this was a positive experience during this pandemic.”

There were over 600 meals distributed that included hot dogs, corn dogs, Rice Krispies treats, chips and water with approximately 500 people served. The food was dispersed in less than an hour.

“The community comments were very supportive and gracious, especially when receiving face masks as a complimentary add on,” noted O’Brien.

The plan is host another event similar to the successful BBQ, possibly at a different location.

“We definitely want to do it again,” added Ridenour. “We will have to work out some logistics so we are prepared for such a large turnout.”

The massive response to the free event also created a bit of difficulty for lunchtime drivers passing by the area on First Street, in both directions. Traffic backed up on High Street trying to cross to the lineup, while those waiting to turn from First onto High backed up to the stop light at Atchison/Highway 108.

And those coming into town, from Escalon on First Street, backed up across the Stanislaus River bridge and the entrance to Jacob Myers Park. At several points in the maze, Riverbank Police Officers provided traffic control, as drivers turned onto two lanes on High Street, then merged down to one at Scout Hall to receive their free food.


News Correspondent Ric McGinnis contributed to this story.