As Texas transplants, new Murrieta residents Jonathan and Amy Hartt admitted their standards are high when it comes to barbecued food.
"The temperature has to be right and the timing has to be right. Today's was good, we enjoyed it very much," said the couple, who on Sunday brought their four daughters to the 66th Annual Murrieta Firemen's Barbecue.
It was the first time attending the event for the family who moved to Murrieta two years ago due to Jonathan's Navy job.
"We just love all the events Murrieta puts on," Amy said.
The Firemen's Barbecue again proved itself to be one cherished by locals. It is the longest running event in the city and one of the oldest in the county, with roots back to the days of the all-volunteer Murrieta Fire District.
In the hours leading up to the barbecue, Murrieta firefighters take turns watching over deep-pit smoked beef. Then on Sunday, the magic happens when the beef is served up on plates loaded with beans, potato salad and coleslaw.
It is something locals such as Anita Gould look forward to each April.
"I've been coming to this since my kids were 6 and 7 years old; now they are married," said Gould, who has called Murrieta home for 19 years.
Gould said she has watched the event grow from a family picnic to what it has become in recent years—comparable to a street fair.
"I just like to come out and see what is happening in Murrieta," Gould said.
Some newer traditions have become mainstays of the event, such as a beer garden, a rock climbing wall, a bounce house and a fire explorers muster.
The muster is a competition among youths from fire departments across the region. Now in its third year, 13 teams took part in timed competition in five categories: hose drag, dummy drag, two-minute drill, make or break and bucket brigade, according to Murrieta Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Macalinao. Murrieta Fire Explorers' A Squad earned first place by coming in with the quickest combined time of 375.83 seconds.
"The first year we had seven teams, then we had nine and this year, 13, " Macalinao said.
New this year was the Murrieta Firefighters Calendar. At $15 apiece, proceeds from the hot-ticket item will go toward Michelle's Place Breast Cancer Resource Center.
Despite overcast weather Sunday, there were a lot of smiling faces and full bellies.
For Murrieta City Councilman Harry Ramos, who originally hails from New York City, it was a reminder of what attracted him to Murrieta.
"This shows how small of a community it is," Ramos said. "It is amazing that they have a firefighters' barbecue. It is just so cool."