Annual Chili Cook-Off and Barn Dance set for Feb. 17-19

Mark your calendars now for the 11th annual Gingerbread House Chili Cook-Off and Barn Dance, slated for Friday-Sunday, Feb. 17-19, at the Ellis County Expo Center.
Along with the three days of CASI-sanctioned chili competition, this year’s event features two nights of live music, as well as silent/live auctions and a special drawing.
All proceeds from the family-oriented event benefit the Gingerbread House, which serves Ellis County’s child victims of serious physical and or sexual abuse and their non-offending family members. The center works as part of a multidisciplinary team that includes law enforcement, child protective services and prosecutors; it conducts forensic interviews of victims/witnesses and also offers therapy.
The Chili Cook-Off and Barn Dance is the largest fundraiser conducted annually by the Gingerbread House, with executive director John Wyckoff noting this year’s event is expected to be the best ever.
“Our fundraising committee has worked hard to come up with new ideas to draw an even larger crowd to the event,” Wyckoff said. “We’re bringing in live bands this year on the two nights and we’re also having a special drawing for six big items where we’ll only be selling 150 tickets.
“We’re really excited with the changes for this, the 11th year,” he said. “We believe people will enjoy them, especially the live bands and the six-item drawing.”

Tickets on sale
Gates open to the public at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, with a $10/person general admission ticket for an evening that will feature an acoustic set by Mark Gorman from 7:30-9:30 p.m. and music by the Randy Brown Band from 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
A beer garden will be offered, with concessions open until midnight.
The evening is sponsored by My Neighborhood Credit Union and Estes Electric Inc.
On Saturday, the gates open at 6:30 p.m. for the annual barn dance, which will feature the Full House Band from 7 p.m.-midnight, sponsored by Mild Bill’s Spice Company. General admission for the barn dance only is $10/person, with a $30 general admission ticket available that includes a prime rib dinner.

Six-item drawing
Only 150 tickets will be sold at $100 each for a special six-item drawing that will include Southwest Airlines tickets, a 55-inch flat-screen TV, an iPad2, a Platinum Spa Package from One Fine Day Salon, a shotgun and a side of beef.
Each $100 ticket will allow the purchaser to place six individual tickets toward the item(s) he or she would like to win, Wyckoff said, explaining, “You can put all six of your individual tickets into one drawing or spread them out, one per item.”
The drawing itself will be held during Saturday night’s barn dance; however, ticket holders do not need to be present to win.

Sponsor tables are available for Saturday night’s barn dance that include hors d’oeuvres, prime rib dinner, beverages, entertainment and media/website recognition. Sponsor packages include the bronze level for $250 (reserved table for four), silver level for $500 (reserved table for eight), gold level for $1,000 (reserved table for 16) and platinum level for $2,500 (reserved table for 20).
For more information about the sponsor tables and additional sponsorship opportunities available for the weekend, contact Wyckoff at the center.

Chili cook-off
The CASI-sanctioned event, which is sponsored by the NOW Pod, offers several levels of competition: CASI chili, which earns competitors points toward the World Finals in Terlingua; Novice, open to ages 18 and older; Junior, for youth ages 8-17; and 50/50 Beans.
CASI chili competition is held Friday-Sunday, with the other competitions held as part of Saturday’s cook-off. Turn-in times are 8 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.
Entry fees are $18 for Friday and Sunday CASI, $20 for Saturday CASI, $16 for Saturday Novice, $10 for Saturday Junior and $10 for Saturday Beans.
For chili cook-off rules, visit online at CASI’s website,

Silent/live auctions
Wyckoff said he expects this year’s silent auction to offer in excess of 200 items, with the offerings ranging from a custom-made barbecue/smoker to tickets to major sporting events, collectibles and gift certificates. The silent auction will open Friday evening and close at 10 p.m. during Saturday’s barn dance.

Volunteers needed
As always, volunteers are needed to stage such a large, three-day event, said Theresa Evans, the center’s forensic interviewer.
“Any help people can give us is always appreciated,” she said. “We need chili judges and volunteers during the event itself. They can just call me or John. If we’re not available, if they will just leave us a message we can get back with them.”
Volunteer scheduling is typically for a two- or three-hour shift but can be adjusted, Evans said, noting people are needed to help with the door, the silent auction and concessions as well as rearrange tables in the transition from the chili cook-off to the barn dance on Saturday.

Contact Evans (judges/volunteers) or Wyckoff (donations/tables/sponsorships/tickets) at 972-937-1870 or email For more information on the chili cook-off, contact Kelly Brignon with the NOW Pod at 469-628-8840.

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