Competition raises money, spirits
The competition was fierce. The contestants were die-hard. And at the end of it all more than 300 people had full bellies and area charities benefited.
For the ninth year in a row the Rosemount United Methodist Church held its chili cook-off and a big crowd turned out for the spicy event.
Thirty-four contestants competed Sunday to see whose chili was supreme. The overall winners of the competition were Kevin and Avery Huyck. The father-daughter duo won the judges over with a pork tomatillo chili.
The winners will have their names engraved on the traveling trophy and received a chili themed apron.
While the Huyck's won over the judges, Susan Zimmerman won over everyone else. She walked away with the People's Choice award and the Most Unique award with her "Charming Chili." The sweet chili included all the usual ingredients but included a Lucky Charms marshmallow on top.
The types of chili varied as much as the contestants did. After winning last year's overall category 7-year-old Karisa Wilson entered her sweet and sassy concoction again to see if she could take the top prize two years in a row.
Wilson, who came up with the recipe herself, said the secret to her award winning recipe is brown sugar and molasses. While she didn't walk away with another win, Wilson said she enjoyed competing.
"It's fun making chili," said Wilson.
Older and taller, Cully Johnson won the top prize in 2007 with a spicy chili that features butter beans. He has participated in the event since it began nine years ago.
"I look forward to it all year," said Johnson. He especially enjoys the camaraderie and competition.
Pretty much anything goes for the cook-off. Organizer Rich Wirt said people can enter any chili they like. He said leaving it open helps draw a variety of flavors including chicken, beef, and pork chilis to the contest. In the past he said they had a spiciest category but it got out of hand.
"It's become a popular event that people seem to really enjoy," said Wirt.
In addition to enjoying 34 different chilis, event goers also indulged in some freshly baked corn bread made by volunteers and ice cream sundaes. For those who don't like chili, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were also available.
The event drew more than 300 people to the church Sunday afternoon. In addition to the chili cook-off a silent auction was held to raise additional funds. Area businesses and church members donated 160 baskets for the auction.
In all, organizer Meredith Johnson said the event raised $4,000.
The money supports Rosemount UMC's missions committee. Wirt said 100 percent of the money raised will support outreach efforts in the community. Some organizations that have benefited from past events include the Rosemount Family Resource Center and the Lewis House in Eagan.