By MIKE SACKETT
Waxahachie Daily Light correspondent
Approximately 150 chili cooks from all over Texas and neighboring states converged on the Waxahachie Expo Center Feb. 17-19 to vie for top honors and points to earn a trip to the international chile cook-off in Terlingua.
The cook-off, sanctioned by the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) also serves as a benefit for the Ellis County Gingerbread House children’s advocacy center.
This was the 11th year for the organization’s primary fundraiser.
The cook-off began Friday night with 59 teams arriving for a judged cook-off that earned the contestants points for placement.
“We have grown over the past few years. Last year we had close to 40 teams for the Friday night cook off,” said John Wyckoff, Executive Director of Gingerbread House children’s advocacy center.
Registering the teams for CASI was Kelly Brignon, who serves as head pepper for the NOW pod, which sponsors the chili cook-offs. By noon there were 89 teams registered among the four classes: CASI, novice and junior chili divisions and a beans competition.
All of the entries are judged by volunteer judges including several local celebrities.
Besides competing in the cooking categories, several of the teams competed in the showmanship division, also earning points toward the Terlingua showmanship competition.
One of those was Keith and Janet Nash from Shreveport, La. Their booth exhibited the cajun flavor of their chili. Keith’s entry is called Louisiana Liquor. He explained he has a secret liquid ingredient he normally uses but his entry during Saturday’s competition would be “dry.”
Most of the cooks travel all over the country to compete with their versions of chili. Waxahachie cook Debbie Eiland Turner has competed in all but seven of the lower 48 states and also in Canada. The cook-offs have a special meaning for her as she met her husband and team member Wayne Turner at a cook-off.
Another contestant, Don Gill, from Clearlake, Texas, showed his historical interest with his Alamo-shaped stand. He’s always been interested in Texas history and helps sponsor a CASI cook-off in San Miguel, Mexico. This was his first year to come to Waxahachie.
Besides cooking chili, the event was also a celebration, junior cook Kelsey Medlin celebrated her birthday Saturday cooking chili. “It’s the best birthday ever,” she said.
“In addition to the cook-off the Gingerbread House is also holding a silent auction and a drawing. This year there are six items instead of one as in the past years,” Wyckoff said of the weekend’s activities.
In addition to the cook-off, the Gingerbread Board held barn dances both Friday and Saturday nights, with the annual prime rib dinner Saturday evening and the Full House Band playing many country favorites.
The event serves as the primary fundraiser for the Gingerbread House, which aids child victims of physical and sexual abuse as their case proceed through the criminal justice system.