A light but enthusiastic crowd turned out for Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce’s second annual Chili Cook-off, held Saturday (March 4) at Heritage Park.
Fewer than 100 individuals were drawn to the park by the smells that emanated from cauldrons of bubbling concoctions consisting of various meats, light and dark beans, an occasional vegetable and peppers, plenty of peppers. And each vat of spicy stew also contained at least one “secret ingredient” that was not revealed.
“I could tell you what the secret ingredient is, but then I’d have to kill you,” laughed Robbie Cale, a member of Atmore Community Hospital’s team.
Those who did attend the event were treated to tastes of 12 different chili recipes, some that would please a child’s palate and a couple that almost burned through the Styrofoam cups in which the samples were served.
Attendees were also treated to a couple of hours of fellowship, as individuals laughed, chatted and reconnected with friends old and new as Richard Bowen provided a musical backdrop with his acoustic guitar and the songs of Cat Stevens, the Eagles, Pink Floyd and others.
Toddlers ran across the park’s central area, their parents or grandparents in hot pursuit, and older children ignored the culinary competition to play chase, climb trees and partake of other youthful activities.
When the judging was done and the chili pots running low, Atmore Advance’s creation was declared the winner. Carl Butler, acknowledged as the team’s chief chef, said the secret to his success was a simple one.
“The main thing is that it’s traditional chili,” he said. “So many people had non-traditional chili; we stuck with traditional chili, seasoned to taste.”
Angela & Company was named runner-up in the chili competition, and the team’s Chili Bar was voted Best Decorated booth. Angela Leachman gave the credit to her husband, Jarrod.
“I just know I married an awesome cook,” the hair stylist said. “He cooks, I clean.”
Jarrod Leachman said he couldn’t reveal the component that gave his chili its winning taste, mainly because he didn’t know.
“I really couldn’t tell you which one it was,” he said. “I just put a little of this and a little of that.”
Johnson Ford’s Lawrence Byrd said his team’s finish did little to diminish the main reason for being there.
“It was a blast,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. We all love it.”
Awards were presented by Mallorie Beachy, Brandy Giger, and Jordan Barnett, representing the Chamber of Commerce.
Atmore Advance (1st place): Carol Thompson, Carl Butler, Walt Butler.
Angela & Company (2nd place, Best Decorated Booth): Cade Leachman, Angela Leachman, Haley Leachman, Peyton Snider, Bo Ramer, Jarrod Leachman.
Johnson Ford (3rd place): Rob Ellis, Lawrence Byrd, Ben Odom, Cody Black.
Afterburn: Walt Smith, Zac Giger, Matt Barnett, Bob Smith.
Atmore Community Hospital: David Fitzpatrick, Diane Fitzpatrick, Suzanne McGill, Ashley Strawbridge, Robbie Cale.
First National Bank & Trust: Judy Davis, Glen Davis, Stephen Van Pelt, Kathy Holland.
Jamaica Me Chile: Joe Hubbard, David Strawbridge, George Pittman, Dennis Tyree.
Lee Veterinary Clinic: Bart Carpenter, Chris Ordis, Leigh Roley, Brittney Templeton, Nikki Faktor, Thomas Ordis, Mac Walker, Josh Coon, Amy Knight.
Pride of Atmore: Foster Kizer, Scott Benton, Sandy Helton, Bub Gideons, Nancy Helton, Sammy Lee.
Red Hot Chili Makers: Jared Carlton, Mark Rodgers, Elliott Faircloth, Zach Brooks.
Southern Care Hospice: Paisley Coley, Hayden Coley, Laura Yoder, Leigh Ikner, Abby Coley.
United Bank: Rosanna Mast, Emilee Waters, Dawn Hollingsworth, Leslie Henderson.
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