35th annual Charity Chili Cook-off has successful return

From left, Robynn Nehl (who had the winning recipe), her daughter Kaylynn, Tara Beard, and Felicia Messimer, sponsored by Bennett, Weber and Hermstad, accept the first-place award for red chili on behalf of the Fur Kids Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Charity Chili Cookoff)

It was like it never skipped a beat.

Live music filled the Wyoming Center at the Cam-Plex Friday night as the annual Charity Chili Cook-Off made its first debut since 2019. It was a popular return with the number of attendees and funds raised comparable to previous events despite a two-year hiatus, a fact that Youth Emergency Services (YES) House Foundation Director Mary Melaragno was more than pleased with.

“There was a steady flow from the beginning all the way up to 9 o’clock,” she said. “I know there were a few things going on in town Friday night, but we had people enjoying chili, visiting with friends, and standing around enjoying the band. It was great.”

It was great news for the first chili cook-off in Campbell County in two years after the 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then later postponed after the committee that oversees the fundraiser disbanded.

The event was revived this year thanks to a collaborative effort between the YES House Foundation and the Council of Community Services, both of whom were the beneficiaries of Friday night’s fundraiser.

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Before expenses, the event raised around $30,000, nearly as much as pre-pandemic events, according to Melaragno, who expects the official results will be finalized in the coming days.

“We will have our Charity Chili Cook-Off wrap up on Tuesday (Jan. 25) to discuss how well it went, changes, additions, and if we are going to continue to co-host it,” she said.

Should the agencies choose to continue with a 36th annual event, Melaragno continued, there could be some small tweaks to make to make it bigger.

This year, competitors challenged each other to claim a top spot in four categories: Red Chili, Green Chili, Salsa, and Guacamole.

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First place in Red Chili went to the Fur Kids Foundation and second place went to TORC Energy Services.

Ballard Petroleum took first place in the Green Chili division followed by Cordero Rojo Mine/NTEC

First place in Salsa went to Ballard Petroleum again with the Campbell County Prevention Council taking second place.

Creative Beverages, teamed with Good Times Liquor and Lounge, took first place in Guacamole and First National Bank of Gillette took second.

The winner of the people’s choice in booth decorations was Earth Works Solutions.

The winners are ….