Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chili Cookoff Results

No sense beating around the bush. I didn't win. I'm fine with that. I made a chili that I like, which is a good thing, because there's a lot left. And I can see why the winners won. They were both very good, but also important, they were distictive. I thought that a red chili in Colorado would stand out against the many green chilis I expected to see, but the reds were the majority at this event.

I'm already beginning to plot next year's entry. Here, the contestants await their audience. The boots are for donations to the local arts association.

But the event was less about chili than it was about community. And the community showed up - everyone from seniors to youngsters. Not only was it good food and a charity event, but the price was right. The four chilis from the professional chefs were $1 per cup. The ten samples from the amateur cooks were an even better bargain. Those were free. It was just a taste of each, but you could go back for as many tastes of as many chilis as you wanted.

When we're talking about Niwot, Colorado, we're talking about small-town community. There are times when I'm in Niwot and I feel like I've wandered into some alternate western version of Mayberry. The chili cookoff was a fine example of that small-town atmosphere. And one of the judges was the sheriff. I kid you not.

Business owners volunteered their time for this event, and the servers where local highschoolers who were working for tips. Tip jars were on the tables and the tips were donated to whichever charity the server chose. Yeah, that's Mayb- , er, I mean Niwot. There were high school kids who volunteered to spend a little over four hours wrangling chili and not making a dime for their efforts. Cool, huh?

The event took place at the local Left Hand Grange Hall, which hosts a lot of community events and meetings in town. The historic building was recently renovated to fix some serious structural issues, but it looks much like it did before. It's just less likely to fall down on your head. But when you step inside, you expect Aunt Bee to show up and offer you a slice of pie.

As far as the sheriff, Niwot exists in a way that I haven't quite wrapped my head around. It's a town, but it's unincorporated, so it has no town goverment - no mayor, city council, or police. Law enforcement is handled by the county sheriff's department.

Here, we've got the judges: Cindy Domenico, one of the county commissioners; Dennis Daly, principal of Niwot High School; and Joe Pelle, county sheriff.

Not only was there chili at this event, there was also entertainment, including the town band. Yes, the town does have a band. And a gazebo/bandshell.

And yes, you may have seen an episode of The Andy Griffith Show that featured a town band and a bandstand.

That was fiction. This town and this band exist. Hard to believe, I know.

Named "The Niwot Semi-Marching Free Grange Band," this group of music enthusiasts plays at many of the local events, including parades where some members get the luxury of riding on a float while others march. The town of Niwot loves parades. The usual parade route through the downtown business district is about three blocks.

The town band plays a huge variety of music, from the modern to the old and obscure, and the age range of the members is as wide as the music. As I was snapping photos, the band was playing Pennsylvania 6-5000.

Entertainment alternated from having entertainment upstairs and having it downstairs where the chili was served. The idea was to get people to eat, chat, hang around, listen to the entertainment, and make an evening of it.

The Niwot Semi-Marching Free Grange Band was the first in the lineup of musical interludes, and they played in upper level of the Grange Hall, a good choice, since they're a fairly large and very enthusiastic group.

Later, Scott Forke played piano downstairs.The piano music was followed by other entertainment, finishing off at the end of the night with singer and guitar player, Kevin Dooley.

Here's a really fuzzy picture of Kevin, but I thought the "audience" shot was worth it.

Speaking of Aunt Bee and her famous pies, there was pie served at this event. Three bucks for a nice slice of pie, baked by My Mom's Pie. No, my mother didn't bake the pies, that's the name of the business.

The event ended with the awards. The judges chose first and second place for both the pro chefs and the amateurs, and there were people's choice first and second place winners for both categories as well. So there were eight trophies handed out to four winners. The judges and the people's choice awards went to the same contestants, with different order for first and second.

For the pro chefs, suffice it to say that the two that didn't win were the vegetarian chilis. For the amateur cooks, the winners were a white bean chili with linguica sausage and a smoked short rib chili. And with no further fanfare, here are the happy winners with their trophies: