Turns out some like it spicy and some like it sweet when it comes to chili. Richmond Hill area residents had their pick during its annual Chili Cook-Off Friday night at J. F. Gregory Park pavilion.
Ladles of chili were dished out by more than 20 vendor contestants from local businesses and organizations, each in friendly competition for official bragging rights as the best chili in town.
For a dollar or two, event goers got a cup of warm chili to sample, some with traditional toppings of sour cream, crackers, corn chips, cornbread, and cheese.
Michael Peters had a stack of several empty chili cups and bowls by the middle of the two-hour event.
“The third one I ate. I don’t know who it was,” he said of his favorite.
The perfect chili was pretty simple for him
“Spicy. Kind of sweet and spicy,” he said.
Kristi Decker stopped by the booth of All Things Chocolate & More for its chocolate chili.
“It’s really good,” Decker said after a couple spoonfuls and some thought.
It was her “fifth or sixth try,” of all the contestants.
Decker was a Richmond Hill Chili Cook-Off first timer and heard about the event on Facebook.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she said. “I think it’s just a great community thing. I’ve seen a lot of people that I see in the community on a regular basis, so it’s pretty cool.”
Richmond Hill city government sponsors the annual event that has become a much-awaited, local-favorite.
“It’s a kickoff to the holidays,” coordinator Amanda Styer said of the event’s appeal. “It’s the first of many holiday activities in the community, so everyone wants to come out and get it started.”
Holiday cheer could be seen and heard, especially when winners were announced.
Winners climbed the stage for a photo and handshake with Mayor Russ Carpenter to receive their trophy and cash prize.
The night included a Christmas tree lighting, festive and fun vendor booth designs, photos with Santa, craft and other food vendors, and holiday song performances on the event stage.
While it was the 17th year for the cook-off, the event debuted its first Gingerbread House contest at the suggestion of city clerk Dawnne Greene.
“It was a great idea,” Styer said. “The first year doing it we had 14 participants, I believe. So, we’ll definitely do it again next year. It was very successful.”
Foot traffic exceeded expectations, too.
“This was the largest crowd I’ve ever seen here,” Styer said of the attendance.
She explained how vendors were asking for applications in August and the event was completely booked in October. Next year, the committee is looking to do half stalls to bring in more vendors.
That, of course, means all the more chili.
Gingerbread House winners
April Cope – first place
Richmond Hill Middle School Art Club – second
Classic Creative Carters – third
Richmond Hill Police Spouses Association – Grand Prize winner
J.J.’s Beauty Salon – first runner-up
Coastal Community Christian Church – second
Molly McPherson’s Scottish Pub – third
Cowbell Chili – People’s Choice winner
Richmond Hill Community Theatre – Best Booth Design winner