The 12th annual Chili Challenge, an event some of those involved call one of the more fun things they do each year, will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24 at Heartland of Hillsboro.
The Chili Challenge is a precursor to the annual Chili Supper and & Silent Auction that will be held from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at the Old Ponderosa Banquet Center in Hillsboro.
“It’s the best event I do of the year. I love it, love it, love it. There’s just a lot of laughing and everyone having fun,” said Times-Gazette sales representative Sharon Hughes, who has served as a Chili Challenge judge since its inception.
A year ago the supper raised $2,535, the most in its history. All proceeds benefit the Ernie Blankenship Telethon for the Highland County Society for Children and Adults that will take place for the 44th time this year on Wednesday, March 30 at Merchants National Bank in Hillsboro.
There are usually 12 to 15 chili entries, but event organizer Debbie Rhude with Heartland of Hillsboro said entries have been a little slow coming in this year.
There is no entry fee. All anyone has to do to enter is call 937-393-5766, give their name and state whether they’ll be entering a mild or hot chili.
The winner and runner-up in each category receives prizes. Rhude said that part of the event is handled by NCB which usually gives away gift cards.
The cookoff is open to the public. Rhude said that once the entries are labeled so no one can tell whose they are, the judges use a number system to determine the winners. She said that after the judging the public is welcome to sample the entries, and there is no charge.
“We’ve had lots of people come in just to watch because it’s so hilarious,” Rhude said. “You could hear a pin drop when they’re judging because they take it so seriously. But we have a lot of fun with it, too.”
The winning recipes are then prepared by Kroger for the Chili Supper & Silent Auction. It’s a dinner of chili, cornbread, brownies, desserts and beverages. Tickets are $5 persale from any of the event sponsors and $6 at the door.
Desserts, made by various community members, are auctioned off by Rick Williams around 6 p.m. during the dinner.
This year’s sponsors are Amatha Farrens State Farm Insurance, Bell Gardens Assisted Living, Buckeye Country 105.5, East Ambulance, Gibbs Insurance Associates, Heartland of Hillsboro, Hillsboro Ponderosa Steak House, Kroger, NCB, Classic Real Estate, The Times-Gazette and WVNU 97.5.
“We need chili contestants and bidders at the auction,” Rhude said. “Last year it was postponed for the first due to the weather. Some people associate chile with the fall, but we like to have the supper right before the telethon to remind everyone that the telethon is coming up. We couldn’t do it without everyone’s help and it’s for a really good cause.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.