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A little chili for September - NEW

November 30, 1999

By DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN ? As a blank canvas awaits the touch of an artist's brush, a two-gallon pot is the medium in which the chili chef creates a work of imagination.

For the members of the 30 or so teams that stretched down the base lines and around the outfield warning track of Municipal Stadium Saturday, chili recipes are mysterious concoctions of secret ingredients, developed over years, precisely mixed and prepared to exacting standards.

"This is chili I've been tweaking for about 10 years," said Rex Thompson of Pottstown, Pa., a member of Denizens of the Deep, a trio of former U.S. Navy Submariners making their third appearance at the fourth annual Hagerstown Suns Chili Cook-off & Music Festival.

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This year's tweaks included the addition of andouille sausage and garden-fresh peppers, he said.

"Epazote," said Ted Meminger of Greencastle, Pa., when asked to give up the Mexican spice that is the secret ingredient of Texas-style chili he and Jeff Baker of the Firedawgs were serving up to judges and guests.

"Best chili in town. See it before you eat it. Beautiful chili," Andy Remavege of Hagerstown called out to passers-by. It was a colorful stew, one his father, Tom, has been serving up for a couple of decades.

"I make two gallons of it every Sunday," said Tom, the leader of Remavege's Savages. "I'm a cumin man," he said, adding that his recipe has at least three types of meats, dark and red chilies, cinnamon and Budweiser.

For the first time there was a tie for Best Overall Chili, with the $1,500 in first and second place money split between Remavege's Savages and Hot Chili Mommas, Suns General Manager Will Smith said. Third place and $250 went to Courtyard Cafe.

The People's Choice Award went to Antietam Cafe, with Captain Bender's in second and Terry Obitts in third. Top booth honors went to Hempen Hill BBQ Grill & Bar, followed by Pirates of the Chili-bbean in second and Auntie Rhee's in third, Smith said.

Karen Smith of Hagerstown enjoyed the offering from Antietam Café, which she described as slightly sweet and not too spicy.

"It's thick. There's a lot of substance to it," Justin Williams of Hagerstown said of the Voodoo Chili team's stew. "A good smoky flavor, too."

The U.S. Army Reserves, who took the top judges' award last year, again brought its containerized kitchen, capable of feeding 700 soldiers, said Sgt. 1st Class Ken Keyser of Headquarters Co. 729th Brigade Support Battalion.

As a couple of thousand chili aficionados circled the field chasing hot dishes with cold cups of beer, soda and water, musician and songwriter Neil Herman played on an infield stage, followed by the Kelly Bell Band of Baltimore and Complete Circle of Chambersburg, Pa.

Advanced ticket sales were up this year, but the cook-off is largely a walk-up event, said Smith. The weather cooperated with sunny, hot conditions that drew a large crowd by early afternoon.

This year the event raised money for "Why Dinosaurs Don't Smoke," an anti-smoking program of The Maryland Theatre that will be performed for schools and community organizations, said Kevin Moriarty, executive director of the Washington County Arts Council.

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