The Burnside Law Chili Cook-off was a huge success Saturday afternoon, according to Debbie Smith, American Red Cross Ohio River Valley Chapter Executive Director.
Smith said the weather was a welcome blessing with temperatures in the mid 70s with no rain all day. She said the first event which was held last year in November was bitterly cold. The crowd responded this year filling up the block between 11th and 12th Streets on Hutchins St., next to Jeremy Burnside’s law office.
Local businesses and restaurants cooked up their signature chili for locals to come and test for themselves. Each booth had a bucket for Red Cross donations, as well as the $10 ticket purchase. All proceeds went to the Red Cross, which Smith said will go to benefit the local community with disaster relief efforts as well as smoke alarm installations.
Smith said the event was organized by Burnside. “Jeremy organized it,” she said. “He kind of ran with it. He’s a good partner and a good neighbor to us.”
Cooks began preparing their chili at 8 a.m. on the street. All preparations had to be done on site. At 1 p.m. the chili was ready for the public…and the judges. Three judges were selected to do a blind test of all the different chili recipes to see who had the best. Those judges included Portsmouth Mayor Kevin E, Johnson, Sonora Mexican Restaurant owner Martin Miranda and Mainstreet Portsmouth Executive Director Joseph Pratt.
Johnson said he wants to challenge the tri-state area to put their chili up against those on display Saturday. “We have the best chili cookers,” he said. “I want to issue a challenge to the entire tri-state.”
Johnson said it has been a very fulfilling duty to judge the contest, saying “we’re definitely full judges. That’s for sure.” Both Pratt and Miranda agreed that sampling every chili was very filling.
Pratt said it was wonderful to see how much effort was put into the contest. He said all the chili was great! Miranda reiterated saying “Everyone is a winner today.”
Johnson reminisced about a chili cook-off in the 1980s in which Chillicothe St. was blocked off in Portsmouth for the weekend. He said the local businesses held sidewalk sales and everybody had a great time. “I would like to see us get to that point,” he said. “That would be wonderful to see it expand downtown again.”
If Burnside gets his way, that is exactly what will happen. “Our idea is to keep having this every year,” Burnside said. “I want to see it get bigger and bigger.”
Burnside said he would like to see the Portsmouth Chili Cook-off to grow and surpass the Huntington Chili Cook-off. He credited his entire office, many of which were present Saturday to helping make the weekend event a success. He said he held a staff meeting and it was brought up to have a chili cook-off to benefit the local Red Cross. “It steam rolled from there,” he said.
The next Red Cross fundraising event is scheduled Nov. 2 at the Friends Community Center. Stand Up for the Stars, featuring local comedian Henry Allen and several other local comedians showcasing their talents will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Red Cross office, 1901 Robinson Ave., Portsmouth, and Neal Hatcher Real Estate, 902 8th St., Portsmouth.
The winners of the Chili Cook-off were:
Professional Division: Big Daddy’s Kitchen;
Amateur Division: Dinner Bell Darlins;
Best Decorated: Hocus Pocus;
Best Service: On A Heater;
Where’s The Fire Extinquisher: Netflix and Chili;
The Firehouse Gang won Best Team Spirit, Crowd Pleaser and Top Fundraiser.
The winner of the pepper eating contest was Sara Yates.