Chili Challenge returns to help radio-telethon


It’s that time of year when local residents start thinking about the 45th annual Ernie Blankenship Memorial Radio-Telethon, and the first of two related preparatory events is less than two weeks away.

The 13th annual Chili Challenge, put on each year by Heartland of Hillsboro, will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 at Heartland. The challenge is open to anyone and there is no entry fee.

There are two challenge categories – mild and hot – and contestants can enter either one or both. The winners and runners-up in both categories win prizes provided by NCB.

The first place winners’ recipes will be prepared for for the 13th annual Chili Supper and Dessert Auction that will be held from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, March 16 at the Old Pondo Banquet Center in Hillsboro.

One of this year’s veteran judges for the Chili Challenge will be Times-Gazette Media Sales Director Sharon Hughes, who says the challenge is one of her favorite events each year. Other judges include Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera, former local OSU Extension Agent Nikki Eyre, Jim Gibbs of Gibbs Insurance Associates, and a couple others still to be confirmed.

Once the entries are labeled so no one can tell who they belong to, the judges use a number system to determine the winners. 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,” a Heartland representative said a year ago. “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 & Dessert Auction.

The cost for the chili supper is $5 for adults and $6 at the door. It includes chili, cornbread, chips and beverages. There is also a dessert auction.

Heartland’s Ida Hecht, the organizer of the events, said she is looking for donated desserts. They can be dropped off at Ponderosa or you can call Hecht at 937-393-5766 and make arrangements to drop them off at Heartland.

“We feel it’s important to give back to the community and this is our way of giving back to Highland County,” Hecht said.

Sponsors of the Chili Challenge and Chili Supper this year are: Amatha Farrens State Farm Insurance, Bell Gardens Place, Highland County Senior Center, Buckeye Country, East Ambulance, Classic Real Estate, Gibbs Insurance Associates, Heart of Hillsboro, Hillsboro Ponderosa Steakhouse, Kroger, NCB Bank, The Times-Gazette and WVNU.

All proceeds from both events benefit the radio-telethon to support the Highland County Society for Children and Adults, which will be held Wednesday, March 29 at US Bank in Hillsboro.

Last year the radio-telethon raised about $106,000, reversing a two-year trend of lower figures. From 2006 to 2008 the radio-telethon raised at least $200,00 each year, with an all-time high of $219,623 in 2007.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Judges Sharon Hughes of The Times-Gazette and John Dodds are pictured at last year’s Chili Challenge held at Heartland of Hillsboro. Sharon Hughes of The Times-Gazette and John Dodds are pictured at last year’s Chili Challenge held at Heartland of Hillsboro.
Chili Supper and Dessert Auction are March 16

By Jeff Gilliland

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