INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — In a festive atmosphere more like a fair than a cooking competition, throngs of chili lovers took part this weekend in the 7th Annual Indian River County Firefighters’ Chili Cookoff.
A crowd numbered in the thousands got the chance to taste chili of all kinds — beef, turkey, venison, chicken and even the mythical pigalope (wild boar and antelope) — for the two-day charity event at Pointe West. Friday night featured the International Fest-of-Ale and Fine Wine.
The money raised will go to Childcare Resources of Indian River County and the Vero Beach High School band said organizer David Dangerfield, who has seen the event grow year by year.
“David Dangerfield does a fantastic job every year,” said Childcare Resources executive director Pamela King. “We want to thank all the firefighters for all they do to help Childcare Resources of Indian River County.”
King said the proceeds generated for her organization will help fund tuition for families in need looking for daycare for their children.
“It will all go to the kids,” she said.
In all there were 35 entrants for the chili competition making some 350 pounds of chili, most of which was consumed within a couple hours. The firefighters also added a salsa competition, this year which featured 12 entrants.
There was a good-natured battle between the Vero Beach City Council and the Board of County Commissioners, whose booths were side-by-side. The commissioners turned out to be the big winners taking the Government section of the event.
However, the city gained a measure of revenge winning first place with the best fruit salsa.
Brian Heady led charge for the city and was quick to point out that no government funds were used by the city as Channel 10 donated the money for their citrus chicken chili and citrus salsa.
Most entrants were reluctant to reveal their secret ingredients though Mary Ankeny of Relay for Life said the key to their Teamwork Chili, was, well, teamwork. She had seven of her team members make a pot and then blended them all together.
The key ingredient for the thousands of chili tasters was fun. The local band Crooked Creek provided live entertainment, the Vero Beach High School Cheerleaders put on an exhibition. There was also a children’s area, pony rides, face painting adding to the festive atmosphere.
“This is a great family fun event, everybody is having a great time,” said Connie McCord, who came with her family in tow.
The weekend got off to a festive start Friday night with the International Fest-of-Ale and Fine Wine featuring 105 international and domestic beers and ales and 12 different wines.
The over-21 crowd of a few hundred listened to live music and tasted microbrews as well as offerings from Europe and Asia.
“We got involved last year and we always support firefighters and law enforcement whenever we can,” said Peter Busch, whose Southern Eagle Distributing was one of the event sponsors.
Winners of the cookoff competition included:
Restaurant — Riverside Cafe
Service Organization — Salvation Army
Public Safety — Indian River County Fire Prevention
People’s Choice — Cultivating Eden
Business — Vero Cheer Force
Salsa — Dodgertown Elementary
Best Booth — Konia Water
School — Dodgertown Elementary
Government — Board of County Commissioners
Traditional Salsa — Ultimate Cheer
Fruit Salsa — City of Vero Beach
Restaurant Salsa — Stax