PARKERSBURG - The second annual Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cook-off started off sweet with a hint of spicy.
The event was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley and the Parkersburg Area Jaycees.
Chamber CEO/President Jill Parsons said the chili cook-off has been a great success each year. She said the event started last year and included about 15 contestants. Parsons estimated just under 300 people showed up Saturday afternoon for this year's event, which was moved to an early time slot with the hopes more people would come before the sun went down and cooler weather came.
Photo by Mandi Cardosi
Willows Center food director Cathy Nichols, left, accepts her white chili recipe’s award with Willows Center administrator Chris McBee.
Ticketholders were given a commemorative mug and the ability to sample all 17 chili entries. To vote for their favorite chili, participants just had to place their pick into a box on each participant's table. A panel of judges also performed a "blind taste test" to determine two winners by the end of the day.
Parsons said the panel, made up of five business leaders and professionals from the area, declared the team of Jonah Anderson and Scott Zyla as the winners. Anderson and Zyla's chili contribution made up entry number seven.
The "people's choice" award, declared by all chili tasters, went to Cathy Nichols with Genesis Health Care Willows Center of Parkersburg.
"We brought the kind of food you'd have if you were in rehab at our facility," said Chris McBee, administrator of the Willows Center, adding the Willows food service director made a white chili and another cook offered his recipe.
McBee is a Chamber member and said there were a total of 17 participants in Saturday's cook-off. He said the goal this year was 25 but with the concern about the weather some people may have been hesitant to come out.
Jaycee's spokesman and chili expert Adam Kennedy said he thought their organization had the winning recipe.
"It's an experience more than anything," he said about sampling the spicy treat and being a part of the event.
A favorite of many during the event was a special pumpkin chili. The "Autumn Harvest Chili" was concocted by Russell Rice, a member of the Parkersburg Alers home brewing club, along with his friend and starter of the club, Justin Logue.
The Parkersburg Rotary Club offered a vegetarian option to ticketholders, making for a healthy alternative to the collection. Spokeswoman for the club, Marie Foster Gnage, said the chili consisted mostly of vegetables.
"We're trying to bring a healthy option to Parkersburg," she said.
Previous winner Joe Tranquill with the Parkersburg News and Sentinel entered his champion chili again this year, as did News and Sentinel repeater Robert Matthews. Matthews said his chili is known to have a spicy kick to it.
Chili tester and guest Helen Barber said it was her first time attending the event.
"My sons actually entered (the contest)," she said. "It's great; we're having fun."
United Bank representative Angi Smith said two co-workers helped make their sweet and spicy chili. Smith said it is sweet at first bite, but quickly turns spicy towards the end.
Parsons said the Jaycees were a wonderful addition to the event.
"They did a wonderful job," she said. "They provided a lot of helpers and volunteers."
Parsons added the Jaycees organization won runner-up, out of the 17 chili samples, by the panel of judges.