Who has the best chili in Blount County?
On Oct. 20 Rotary Club of Maryville members will answer that question when they host their third annual Chili Cook-off for Education.
As of Oct. 15, there were more than a dozen teams signed up for the competition, and new entries will be accepted through Oct. 19. The event will be from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Shed beside the Harley-Davidson and Buell dealership on West Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville.
The competition will also be a tasty time for visitors as they’ll get to try each one of the entries.
“They can eat just as much as they want for the price of a $7 ticket,” club member John Huffman said.
Rotary Club of Maryville president Jeff Eberting said the whole goal is to raise money to help pay the cost of the group’s dictionary project for students in Blount and Maryville city schools. The Alcoa Rotary does a similar project for children in their school district.
“Through the dictionary project, we give every third grader in Blount County and Maryville a dictionary with their nameplate in it,” said Eberting.
Eberting said while the cookoff is not new, opening it up more to the public is. “This is the first time we’ve made it more of a community-wide event,” he said. “Previously, it was within the club.”
Eberting and three others in the club were inspired to make the event more of a community activity after participating as members of Leadership Blount in the first Big Barbecue Bash in May. The event brought more than 30 amateur barbecue teams to Alcoa for a two-day competition that raised money for the New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center as well as other charities.
“I was in Leadership Blount 2007, and we had the Big Barbecue Bash and that led me to thinking more globally. This won’t approach the level of the Big Barbecue Bash, but it will involve the community,” he said. “We wanted to take it a little beyond what it was. We wanted to make it something we could do annually so the community could look forward to it.”
Huffman said the dictionary program and the other activities the club members do exemplify their motto “Service above Self.” The cook-off brings more visibility to the club as many people often don’t know how civic organizations like Rotary contribute to the community and do much more than just meet for lunch. “We do a whole lot in the community,” he said. “Until I joined Rotary, I didn’t know about that.”
Rotary club member Dana West said two Rotarians hand out the dictionaries to students. “They do a 20-minute lesson and teach them how to use their dictionaries. We have a fun time with it,” she said.
West, also a member of the Leadership Blount Class of 2007, said that in the three years the Rotary Club of Maryville has been doing the fundraiser, group members have handed out about 1,300 dictionaries a year. Initially a grant helped pay for half the $2,500 cost of the dictionaries. Last year the cook-off helped defray the costs.
“This year we hope the chili cook-off covers the costs,” said West. “If we have any left over, we hope to provide supplies for students at Walland Elementary School.”
Huffman was a class of 2007 member of Leadership Blount with Eberting and echoed the club president’s thoughts on the goals for the cook-off. “That was what we were really wanting -- an event where people could come out and have a good time,” he said. “We want to have an event that anyone can bring their chili and come out and compete.”
There will also be kids’ activities at no additional charge.
“We have invited the local education foundations like the Maryville City Schools Foundation, the Blount County Education Foundation and the Alcoa City Schools Foundation to set up displays at no cost to them to promote awareness of what they are doing, even though we’re not directly tied to those organizations,” Huffman said. “Everybody is working toward the same common goal which is quality education in Blount County.”
Eberting said people can sponsor the event and receive a spot for their company or club team, or they can just register to have their own team. “If you don’t want to be considered a sponsor, you can register your team for $50,” he said.
Eberting said contestants will need to bring their chili ready to eat. “Keep it warm, and we’ll have judges doing blind judging on taste, texture, flavor, consistency, spice, aroma and color,” he said. “Each team must cook a minimum of four gallons of chili.”
In addition to the judges’ choice, there’s a People’s Choice award. “The people who purchase tickets -- that ticket becomes their ballot, and they drop it in a bucket with the corresponding chili they like best,” he said.
There also will be a best-decorated table theme award for the team that has the most creative theme to their table, Eberting said.
Because the University of Tennessee-University of Alabama football game will kickoff in early afternoon, Eberting said the club also plans to televise the Alabama-Tennessee game on a big screen television.
“I encourage the community to come out,” he said. “It will be a fun time from 2 to 7,” Eberting said.
Huffman said everyone will be having a fun time for a good cause. “The most important thing about this weekend is bringing people together to support educational awareness in Blount County,” Huffman said.
The entrants in the competition as of Oct. 15 were:
Jason and Virginia Hill
Nick Holota “My Catering Guy”
Tracy Carico, CPA
Matrixx Mail Service
Maryville City schools
Maryville Rotary Club members.
For more information or to sign up before Oct. 19, call Jennifer Muise-Hill at 865-806-1837 or by e-mail at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications can be faxed to 865-380-5088 and can be obtained at www.maryvillerotary.org. Admission is $7 at the gate.
Sponsors include Blount Today, Matrixx Mail Service, Eberting Orthodontics, the Alcoa Foundation, Beth Stubbs CPA, West Chevrolet, Realty Executives Tri-Stars, Ruby Tuesday, Midland Cleaners, Carol J. LaRue , CLU ChFC and Alcoa Tenn Federal Credit Union.