C is for Chili

Cook-off draws crowd to sample, vote and help two causes

Barbara Jenkins must feel just a little like Jimmie Johnson, the NASCAR driver who recently won his fifth straight championship.

And her nemesis - John Huffman - must feel a little like driver Denny Hamlin, the driver who came up short in the last race of NASCAR season Sunday.

For the second year in a row, Huffman and Jenkins had a no-holds barred friendly rivalry to see whose chili recipe judges at the annual Chili Cook-off would like best. This year, as in 2009, the judges chose Jenkins’ chili.

“The Maryville City Schools Foundation won for the second year in a row, and I am re-evaluating my chili recipe,” Huffman said. Jenkins replied, “It was only sweet because I beat John.”

Both Huffman and Jenkins said the event held at The Shed at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson was a success for the Rotary Club of Maryville and the Maryville City Schools Foundation.

This was the first year the foundation had participated as a partner with the Rotary Club in organizing the event. The idea was that the tickets each side sold before the event went directly to their organizations. On the day of the event, they would split all gate proceeds.

Huffman and Jenkins were happy with the result. “It was our most successful event yet. Co-sponsoring with the Maryville City Schools Foundation enabled us to reach a larger audience,” said Huffman, who said the Rotary Club earned about $3,500.

Jenkins said the foundation brought in about $3,600. “This is our first time to do the Chili Cook-off with them, so we were pleased. It was a great first effort with just six weeks to organize. I think with planning and working in advance, we can do a whole lot better,” she said. “I think there is a lot of potential there.”

The Market won the People’s Choice Award. About $260 was raised through the People’s Choice voting. Guests put money into jars at whichever booths they chose as they tasted the chili.

Huffman praised the staff of Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson. “The Shed is a fantastic venue,” he said. “We also had a very generous group of individual and corporate sponsors. The judges, who are all real judges in Blount County, had a fantastic time.” Huffman, who co-chaired the event with his wife, Connie, said the Kids’ Area was well received and that despite the cold temperatures, folks turned out for the event.

“It looks like we had more than 600 people come out on a blistery cold day. After the event, we had folks who wanted to participate next year, so it will definitely be held again,” Huffman said.

Huffman said there were many first-time guests, and Jenkins said it appeared everyone had fun. “After it was over, I had several people tell me they wanted to participate next year, and they were getting chili team together,” she said. “People had a great time for a wonderful cause with the Maryville Rotary Club and the Maryville City Schools Foundation both supporting education, so it was a win-win.

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