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35th Annual Campbell County Charity Chili Cookoff is back

Campbell County Charity Chili Cookoff photo

One of the biggest fundraisers for the YES House and Council for Community Services is back and bigger than ever.

Two years of cancellations were not enough to keep this popular event of more than three decades down, and it is now just days away from serving up dozens of delicious recipes sure to satisfy the taste buds of about 2,000 expected visitors this year.

The 35th Annual Campbell County Charity Chili Cookoff returns to Cam-Plex with its first event since 2019. The 2020 benefit was canceled because of the pandemic, and last year’s cookoff never happened because the Chili Cookoff Committee disbanded.

That’s when the YES House and the Council of Community Services joined forces to rejuvenate the chili cookoff. The deadline to enter the contest is Friday, Jan. 14, and the much-anticipated event will be a week later on Friday, Jan. 21.

“We have such an amazing and committed staff to make this the best chili cookoff it can be. I’ve just been so impressed,” YES House Executive Director Mary Melaragno said. “I’m excited to see the accomplishments of the volunteers from both organizations come together. They really have gone above and beyond to make this happen.”

Past competitors (Campbell County Charity Chili Cookoff photo)

The YES House and Council for Community Services, which split the money raised to help their respective programs, serve a critical need in the community, and rely on the generosity of Campbell County to provide year-round assistance. They have been busy recruiting local chefs with a passion for fiery foods to create unique dishes. That’s where some of the changes of the event will be noticeable as two ingredients will be allowed beginning this year – beans and guacamole.

The charity cookoff will feature a large variety of eats with five categories which include red chili and green chili, as well as new item vegetarian chili, guacamole, and salsa.

“In the past, beans were not allowed in the recipes because of the fear of losing entries who were using this as a step before moving on to big chili cook competitions which don’t allow beans,” Melaragno explained. “We asked around and got input from different cooks who make chili and there really wasn’t many, if any, who enter their chili in the cookoff on their way to other competitions out of state, so we decided to change that rule and allow more people to enter the cookoff.”

(Campbell County Charity Chili Cookoff photo)

Another small change made by the new leadership is the timing of the event. Previously, the charity chili cookoff was held on a Saturday every October, but organizers see every January as a better fit.

“October is such a busy month with the Gillette Dancing with Stars, Halloween and the great downtown events that Gillette Main Street puts on, it really is hard to squeeze in another big event during that time,” Melaragno said. “So we looked at the calendar and felt the first quarter of the year was the only time of year not much is going on, so we selected January to host this every year as long as the community wants it.”

The cost of the event will include all the chili one can handle and live music from a local band from 7-9 p.m. The eating, which will be held from 4-9 p.m., is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. For those who want an early start before the rush and get first taste, V.I.P tickets are available for $20 which will allow attendees to enter at 3 p.m.

Visit https://www.yeshousefoundation.org/events/charity-chili-cook-off/ to register or email Rachel Pherson at rachel.pherson@anbbank.com

Past competitors (Campbell County Charity Chili Cookoff photo)