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Annual chili cook-off features tasty treats

September 25, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Mike Spickler, right, of Hagerstown, tries some "Chilly Chili" at the Hagerstown Ski Club chili tent Saturday during the Seventh Annual Hagerstown Suns Chili Cook-off & Music Festival at Municipal Stadium.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN -- Chili has its roots in the American Southwest, and it was the traditional variety that won the accolades of the people, if not the judges, Saturday at the Seventh Annual Hagerstown Suns Chili Cook-off & Music Festival.

The People's Choice Award went to It's Not Easy Being Green, a Waynesboro, Pa., team whose spicy concoction was heavy on green chili peppers and without a bean in the batch, according to Harold Moritz.

"Real chili does not have beans," declared Moritz, who spent his first 35 years in Arizona.

He was joined by his wife, Rachel, and teammates Lisa and Cadge Clayton and Scott Benford.

"This is basically a recipe from the Sonora section of Mexico," Moritz said, explaining the regional varieties. Before claiming the trophy and a gift basket, Moritz said they did not expect their traditional recipe to take any prizes.

"It's all about being here and supporting the Suns and the charity," Moritz said.

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The Washington County Teen Pregnancy Coalition, also known as Teens Have Choices, benefited from this year's event, said Reed Hunley, the Suns' director of entertainment.

With work being done to the field, the cook-off was moved to the concourse around the stadium, Hunley said. Just nine teams showed up, but they included elite competitors of the past.

Team West Virginia, headed by Curt Smith of Inwood and Teri Ford of Hedgesville, was looking for a repeat of 2009, when they took the Best Overall Chili Award from the judges. This year, they had to settle for the $250 prize for third place and a trophy and gift basket for Best Booth Display.

Captain Bender's Tavern in Sharpsburg, headed by owner Steve Kemmet, won the People's Choice for three years running before he took a break from the competition in 2009. This year's recipe was actually the winner of a cook-off held on a recent weekend at the tavern.

"You get the sweet first and it finishes off with a nice little kick," Kemmet said, describing the dish's effect on the palate.

Sgt. 1st Class Amy Fasulo and Sgt. 1st Class Tab Kurtz of the National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion won the Best Overall Chili competition and $1,000. It was another victory for the Army, which won the award in 2006.

"We won second place last year. We're hoping for first this year," said Kathy Sortore, vice president of the Little Heiskell Ski Club of Hagerstown. They took second again, winning $500.

Even those who did not win got to expose the crowd to their version of the culinary classic.

Why did the Greek Girls of Brownsville enter the contest?

"Because we can, and because Mom has a great chili recipe we've enjoyed for years," said Amanda Changuris. Amanda, sister Andrea and mother Holly drew some of their inspiration from watching the Food Network, they said.

Breach the Silence, Skyla Burrell Blues Band and Dimestore Profit performed as part of the festivities.

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