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Chili Cook-off a hot event in Martinsburg

July 22, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Hundreds of people sucked down water to help cool their flame-filled mouths after tasting the wares of 24 vendors during Saturday's third annual Main Street Martinsburg Chili Cook-off.

Gina Franklin of Hedgesville, W.Va., said the hotter the chili, the more she likes it.

"You have to have a mixture of chili peppers," the self-proclaimed chili connoisseur said. "The spices should burn your lips, tongue and back of the throat."

Like other chili enthusiasts who attended the event, Franklin paid $5 to taste a sample of what the best chili makers in Martinsburg had to offer, then vote for the winner.

Franklin said she enjoyed the American Red Cross of Berkeley County's chili the best because it had the nicest consistency and mixture of spices.

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Karen Sumner, executive director of the American Red Cross, said she started preparing her ingredients Friday night, and began cooking Saturday morning.

The Red Cross' chili contained hot Italian sausage, pork roast, beef roast, dark red kidney beans and several spices, she said.

Those ingredients helped the Red Cross match its second place finish from last year in the People's Choice category, said Randy Lewis, executive director of Main Street Martinsburg, a nonprofit organization that is responsible for revitalizing the city's downtown.

The National Guard took first place.

Lewis said about 1,500 people cast ballots to vote for the best chili.

"It was the best year ever," Lewis said.

Each year, organizers try to coordinate the chili cook-off with Roundhouse Rail Days, which is held a few blocks away and ends shortly before the cook-off begins, Lewis said.

Proceeds from the event will be used to continue promoting downtown Martinsburg, Lewis said.

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