Chili cook-off doubles attendance, entrants over last year

PARKERSBURG – Attendance and participation in the Great Bowls of Fire chili cook-off on Saturday reached a new high, officials said.

More than 700 people attended and 39 cooks entered the chili competition, Jill Parsons, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said Monday.

The tabulation of advance sales and admission tickets purchased Saturday showed 720 people attended, she said.

“We’ve pretty much doubled the number of attendees from last year; we’ve more than doubled the number of people making chili and entering their chili from last year,” she said.

The credit for the increases goes to the event’s committee members and sponsors.

Nice weather on Saturday, publicity and social media and the committee helped, too, Parsons said.

“We worked really hard, through the committee, through the Chamber’s Facebook site, to promote the advance ticket sales and getting the word out there,” she said. “Early last week, I think when people started seeing what the weather forecast was going to be for Saturday and how beautiful it was going to be, that’s when the advance ticket sales really ramped up.”

Melanie Roby, a committee member involved in preparing for the cook-off representing Sams Club, also entered the competition with her husband, Nathan, under the name “Pepper Star.” Her chili recipe was chosen as first place in the Judges’ Panel category and second place in the People’s Choice category.

Roby said she was impressed by the event, both from behind the scenes and as a competitor. It was her first time competing, although she has participated in the Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-off in Charleston in June for the last two years.

She reached the winners table in that event two years ago and plans to keep returning to both events.

“I think people had a good feeling overall; there was a good vibe to the day. You could tell people were really taking it seriously, testing the chilis,” she said.

The cook-off was sponsored by the chamber and the Parkersburg Area Jaycees, with proceeds split between the two organizations. The chamber will use its proceeds to cover expenses for this year’s cook-off and toward next year’s event, Parsons said.

The Jaycees will donate its portion to the Civic Fellows program through the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, she said. The program encourages college students from the area to come back each summer and participate in internships with participating companies, organizations, nonprofits and government agencies.

“It’s so they know that once they graduate, they can come back here and that the Mid-Ohio Valley is a good place to live, work and play. We’re happy to help support that effort through these proceeds,” Parsons said.