Chili cook-off a hot hit

September 26, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

HAGERSTOWN - After drinking beer and eating chili in the hot sun in Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium Saturday afternoon, the order of the day might have been aspirin and bicarbonate of soda.

The event, which drew an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 fans, according to organizers, was the first Hagerstown Suns Chili Cook-Off & Music Festival.

The Suns and the Community Free Clinic, which provides free medical treatment for people without health insurance in Hagerstown, put on the event. Proceeds went to the clinic at 249 Mill St., said Robin Roberson, its executive director.


Eight bands, from rock to country to blues, provided the entertainment, but chili in almost every form was the star of the day.

Twenty-three teams - eight representing businesses and organizations, 15 made up of individuals - competed for the $1,000 first prize.

"We were thrilled with the response for a first year," Roberson said. The cook-off will be an annual fund-raiser, she said.

There was chili with beans and chili without beans. There was chili without tomatoes.

The Chili Cowboys, a team of four local guys, offered red, white and blue chili. Their theme was the flag. They wore white cowboy hats and red, white and blue shirts.

Their blue chili recipe, named after Elvis Presley's hit "Blue Hawaii," had no secret ingredients, team member Larry Bayer said.

"We put food coloring in it," he said.

The Hot Chili Mamas, wives and sweethearts of the Chili Cowboys, occupied the booth next door. Their secret ingredient - chicken marinated in wine and tequila.

A walk around the booths produced a variety of themes and recipes.

Dawn Boppe of the Fountain Head Chili Dawgs said her team came together "because we all love to make chili." Their recipe contained ostrich, elk and beef.

Joe Jacobs and the Hagerstown Ford Commercial Team had a "mishmash" recipe with cactus as a special ingredient. Asked if the team members often made chili together he quipped, "Yeah, we normally get up at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning."

Farther down sat four members of the Hagerstown Suns Tailgater Row fan club. Ric Gamache was the team's chef and he took particular pride because his chili had no beans.

"Real chili doesn't have beans," he said.

Gamache's chili also was helped with the addition of beer and sour mash whiskey, a chopped-up pork shoulder and garlic.

The rules were simple. All of the ingredients had to be brought to the field raw and separated, Roberson said. They could be chopped, diced and sliced ahead of time, but the chili had to be cooked on site, she said.

Teams began arriving on the field as early as 5 a.m. to fire up their pots.

The four volunteer judges were Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner, Washington County Commissioners President Gregory Snook, state Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Eric Cooper of U.S. Cellular, a sponsor of the event. They judged for aroma, consistency, appearance and taste.

"We've tasted three of them that were so hot they made us break out in a sweat," Snook said.

The judges cleared their palates between samples with beer, he said.

The judges apparently had no trouble picking Juggalo's Chili as the hottest in the contest.

"Tabasco sauce is a big sissy compared to our chili," said Ronald Starliper, the team's chef.

A 5-ton Army cargo truck hauled the 729th Forward Support Battalion's mobile kitchen trailer to the stadium Saturday.

"You can cook anything in this thing that you can cook in a regular kitchen," said Sgt. Mark Bagley, the team's chef.

He took his recipe off the Internet and the team altered it at will.

"It was a collaboration of five people and it's going to be the winner," Bagley said.

The end of the day proved him wrong.

The $1,000 prize for the best overall chili went to the Cock of the Walk team from the James Rumsey Technical Institute in Berkeley County, W.Va., headed by chef Greg Smith.

The People's Choice Chili award went to the Chili Dawgs, headed by chef Michael Snyder.

Mucho Loco's Chile walked away with the prize for the best booth.

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