San Quentin’s Lower Yard opened on Independence Day to a carnival-like event that kept hundreds of prisoners entertained all day. A Christian coalition of young incarcerated men, Graced Out Ministries, sponsored the festivities.
“The idea was to bring young men and people of all ages together to express their gifts and talents and to let everyone know that God loves them no matter where they are,” said Graced Out organizer Dwight Kennedy.
Graced Out Ministries and the Protestant Church collected donations to give away cookies, chips and sodas as prizes, in addition to providing more than 900 burritos and bags of chips to everyone.
Fifteen people lined up to devour a Honey Bun at top speed to win a “pie-eating” contest. The Ironman Contest was a grueling task of 40 pull-ups; 40 bar dips; 40 squats and 40 pushups, followed by a lap around the Lower Yard. Finally, a 100-pound heavy bag had to be carried about 50 yards and brought back by pushing it on the ground to the start line. There was also a Three- Legged Race, Potato Sack Race, a Home-run Derby, Basketball Three-Point and Skills Contest, a Four-Man Push-up Contest and a Rock/ Paper/Scissors Contest.
The first Ironman contestant, Brian “Sharky” Holiday, completed the tasks in 6:24:69, a time that held nearly all day, until several youngsters broke it in consecutive runs. In the end, Jeremiah Lee scored 5:20:72, a time that couldn’t be beat.
“I did that for my son,” Lee said. “I never met him.”
Tony Trinidad entered four contests: Rock/Paper/ Scissors, the Three-Legged Race, the Potato Sack Race and the Honey Bun eating contest.
Referring to Graced Out Ministries, Trinidad said, “I like them because it’s us talking to us.” Trinidad is a participant in numerous self-help groups at San Quentin, including the Prison University Project, Criminal Gangs Anonymous as well as Vocational Plumbing “I didn’t expect that many people to show up,” said Graced Out organizer Antoine Waite.
The most popular comment from hundreds of men for the day was “fun.”
The Honey Bun contest went like this: with hands behind your back, eat a Honey Bun as fast as you can. The first man chewing and then opening up an empty mouth is the winner.
“I need water!” said first place winner, John Ray Ervin. “I’m going to pay for it.”
Cones lined the basketball court for the Three-Point Contest, Half-Court Shot Contest and the Skills Challenge.
Half-Court Shot Win was Anthony Guillebeau. Coming in second and third respectively were Raiveon “Ray Ray” Wooden and James Harrison.
As the yard’s PA systems announced, “In five minutes, the Three-Legged Contest will began in Right Field,” the old tied themselves to the young, Black to White, tall to short — they took off racing — step, step, hop and some tumbled in laughter while rolling in the grass.
The contestants for the Rock/Paper/Scissors Contest lined up, five men facing five opponents to play two out of three to determine the winner. Each contest began with smiles and handshakes; once they began; their hands shook three times to reveal — Paper covers Rock, Scissors cut Paper or Rock breaks Scissors.
The Four-Man Push- up Contest completed 25 push-ups. Winner Vadim Zakharchenko led the winners.
The day ended with a raffle to give away leftover prizes. Remarkably, there were no alarms sounded the entire day.
Graced Out Ministries organizers were Dwight Kennedy, Antoine Waite and Aaron Tilas.
Fellow incarcerated men Kevin Kelly, Norman Willhoite, James Benson, Paul Salseda, Danny Pita and Armando R. Gonzalez assisted Graced Out.