The 19th annual Nate Mata memorial scholarship barbecue drew hundreds Saturday afternoon to eat, look at motorcycles, listen to live music and meet up with others from North County.
The event brings in money that goes toward scholarships for athletes at Calipatria High School, but it is also a celebration of Nate’s life, said Jane Mata, Nate’s mother. It gives the family pride in who Nate was and helps out other students going to Calipatria High.
Nate died in a car accident while coming home from refereeing a junior varsity girls’ basketball tournament in Holtville 19 years ago.
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After his death, the Mata family put on the event to keep busy, Jane said. It’s a lot of work, especially the cooking that couldn’t be done until the last minute.
“At the end of the day it’s well worth it,” she said. “It’s a good tired.”
The group had hoped to get about 500 people at Saturday’s event, but had more than 800 show up before the end of the event, partially due to the reunion during the weekend, she said. People running for office in June also showed up, donating money.
“It’s just a blessing,” she said.
The number of scholarships that will be given out at the senior banquet in May depends on how much money is made, Jane said. They want to give as many as they can, and the event was great for drawing in people.
The weather was great Saturday, and a lot of people turned out, said Johnny Chavez of Calipatria. He’s been going to the event for a number of years, pretty much every year, he said.
It’s a small community, and for situations like this, people come together, he said. And when the community comes together like this, you see people you haven’t seen all year, or even with the class reunion you see those who graduated in the 1970s.
It is like family coming together, he said.
Though many set up in the park on picnic tables and with folding chairs, Eric Franklin of Calipatria took his food to go. He came out for the food and to enjoy the atmosphere.
It’s a “nice event, good barbecue,” he said.
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.
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