Cool, wet weather doesn?t dampen enthusiasm at chili cookoff



The sixth annual Chili Cookoff at Marion County Lake Saturday was the most successful so far with 18 cooks vying for one of three top spots and 220 tasters voting for their favorite.

Cold, rainy weather didn?t deter people either, said Steve Hudson, superintendent of Marion County Park and Lake.

?We raised $1,498 (fixing or buying items) for the lake,? he said.

Some ways the money could be used includes purchasing new picnic tables or trees, Hudson said.

Last year, the event raised $1,163, which was $335 less than this year, he said.

Looking back to 2007 and 2009, Hudson said, attendance was high, but not as good as this year.


Best chili

?Winners included Gordon and Judy Pendergraft for what they called, ?Award-Winning Chili,? Hudson said.

Pendergraft has placed in second or third place, he said, but he never won the big one until now, he said.

Second place went to newcomers Dustin Koehn and Nick McGovern of D&N Chili.

?One secret about our chili,? said Koehn, ?is that we use five different meats?my mom?s recipe.?

Confident D&N Chili would take home the ?winning? chili, McGovern said he was happy with the outcome.

The other chili placing third went to Bill Frary of Newton with his Burnt and Brisket Chili.

Hudson said the chili makers had a competitive trophy with all of them voting amongst themselves.

?This year?s trophy went to Carl Schroeder of Wichita for Carlos? Green Chili,? he said.

The majority of people attending the event, Hudson said, were not from Marion County.

?A gentleman came up and talked to me and said at one time there were seven different cars with out-of-state plates and 75 percent were from out-of-county,? he said.

Hudson?s sister and brother-in-law also made chili as a way of supporting the park and lake.

Looking at new event

?One cool event we want to do next year,? he said, ?is to have contestants see who can eat Rick Meier?s real hot, spicy chili the quickest.?

The disc jockey at Saturday?s cookoff managed to get three contestants this year to participate in eating the spicy chili.

?One (contestant) finished and the other two bowed out,? Hudson said. ?The winner got $100.?

The chili cookoff is one of the first county-sponsored events done at the lake, Hudson said, and the first year he was there.

Ken Schmidt of Marion, who was sampling chilies, said he enjoyed it because he could watch the KSU football team playing KU inside the lake hall.

?What better way than to eat chili while watching the game,? he said.

For Dave and Mary Beth Long of Marion, the granddaughters were visiting so that their grown children could attend the game in Manhattan.

?This is the first chili cookoff for Kendall, 6, and her sister Carsyn, 2,? said Mary Beth Long.

Recipe secrets

?They said they like Gordon Pendergraft?s chili because it tastes like mom?s (chili),? she said. ?There were also crackers and cheese.?

Tahlia Frary, 11, of Newton, said she likes coming to the lake, adding that her dad was entered in the chili cookoff.

Ty Gaines of Madison said one secret ingredient in his chili is Spicy V-8 juice.

Gaines said he has been coming to the cookoff for three years and hasn?t won yet, but he continues to work at it.

Jim and Deborah Whitfill of Phoenix, Ariz., said they were residents of the lake until about two years ago.

?We came all the way down here to see (Gordon) and have his chili,? Jim Whitfill said.

Bob McCurdy of Goddard said he is one of the weekend trailer crowd, and he also made chili.

?I made the chili and my secret ingredient is to use Hatch peppers,? he said. ?These peppers grow in New Mexico and they only come out one time a year.?

McCurdy said he didn?t think the peppers would grow in this area, but the secret of these peppers is how flavorful they are.

?It?s not a hot pepper,? he said. ?Our chili has won three times, and one year it was for a turkey chili.?

Nancy Fee of Marion stook near the open fire eating the Pendergraft?s chili.

?It?s one of my favorite chilies,? she said. ?Another favorite is the black bear pepperoni John Walters has. It?s excellent.?

Mike Crane of Wichita, but moving to Salina, said in the beginning six years ago, there were only four that started the cookoff.

?This is also the coldest weather since (the first cookoff) was held.?

The original chili cookers were McCurdy, Roy Patton, Hudson and himself, Crane said.

?In the beginning we had the cookoffs in November and one year there were five different chili fundraisers in the region,? he said.

Probably the longest distance traveled to attend the cookoff was made by Hudson?s friend, Dave Walters.

Wearing a polar bear hat, Walters said he was offering three different meats in his chili samples to include moose, black-tailed deer and dall sheep.

?I live outside of Palmer, but work in Prudhoe Bay,? he said.

While most participants had a hard time choosing their favorite chili, one little girl, who remains anonymous, didn?t have any trouble ruling out all three of Walters? chili.

?You don?t want to go over there (pointing to Walters booth). That is animal chili and I don?t like animal chili,? she said.

Her choice was the barbecue chili.

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