SOAR’s 4th Annual Chili Cook-off raises over $6,000

Venison chili, white chili, fifteen bean chili, and tamale chili – in all, eleven varieties of chili were offered during Seasonings for SOAR! Chili Cook-off held Saturday, March 9th.

Eleven teams competed and two hundred and sixty-two people came out for the event to help raise funds for SOAR!, the local adult and family literacy non-profit.

For $5, those who attended the Cook-off got to sample as many varieties of chili as they wanted, along with peanut butter sandwiches, beverages, and cookies.

Thanks to our generous sponsors, wonderful attendance from the community, and the Washington County Community Foundation matching grant, SOAR! raised over $6,000. “Last year, we netted over $4,000. The matching grant from the WCCF was a huge help in making the event so successful monetarily this year,” Erica Schmidt, SOAR! director said.

Back by popular demand again this year were raffles/silent auction items, kid’s station, the old fashioned cake walk, and custom made hot sauce, provided by Pepper Palace (Sevierville, TN). Rebecca Schamber, SOAR! board member and cake walk coordinator said, “We had over thirty-four desserts for the cake walk. No two desserts were the same and they were all homemade. We had a Peter Paul Mounds cake, carrot cake, coconut cream pie, and even peanut butter brownies. Everyone always enjoys the cake walk, and I know they will enjoy the delicious baked goods they walked away with.”

Each team provided three crock-pots of chili. Some teams even ran out of chili. “That is a good thing. We are making plans for next year because the event keeps growing. We plan to increase our attendance by 50 -100 each year,” Schmidt said.

Prizes were awarded for those placing in first, second and third in all three categories: Best Judged, People’s Choice, and Best Decorated Booth. The Best

Judged category was judged by a “secret panel” of judges. They gave first place to The Nifty Fifty Chili Chicks (Stephanie Rockey & Crew), second place to Team Autism Awareness (Robin Bryant & family), and third place to The General’s Chili (Brian McBride).

People’s Choice for favorite chili went to Team Autism Awareness, first; The Nifty Fifty Chili Chicks, second; and Fiesta Chili (Dr. Reasor), third.

Best Decorated went to The Nifty Fifty Chili Chicks, first; Fiesta Chili, second; and Spring Forward into Chili (Chris Schmidt & Danelle Staser), third.

Debbie Mildenburger, SOAR! tutor and Seasonings Coordinator said, “The contestants really stepped up the decorations this year. They all got into the spirit of competing and having fun with it. We even had costumes to go along with the theme of their chili.”

Ray Owen, SOAR! President Elect said, “I enjoyed visiting with everyone and tasting all the wonderful chili. Everyone put so much effort into their theme and chili. It was a lot of fun to be part of a great evening for a great cause.”

Schmidt added, “I cannot express how grateful I am to be part of such a wonderful community. Several people were kind enough to make additional donations to the program, which is very much appreciated. I would also like to thank the WCCF for awarding us a matching grant. Funds for the Cook-off are just the beginning to fulfilling our matching grant.”

“We are excited to be able to help SOAR! with their fundraising. This is an important service to our community. Increasing our literacy level is an important step in increasing our overall educational attainment in Washington County,” said WCCF Executive Director, Judy Johnson.

Schmidt stated on behalf of the students and board members that they would like to thank Debbie Mildenburger. “Without Debbie’s hard work and endless hours, Seasonings would not have been as successful. She is such a wonderful asset to the organization. I am very thankful for all her dedication to SOAR!”

Karen York, board President continued with, “We also appreciate all the support from our tutors, volunteers, board members and the community. It is because of all of them that the evening was such a huge success.”

Schmidt stated “Plans for next year are already underway. 2014 will be our 5th year for Seasonings and we have some great things in store.” For more information about SOAR! call 896-1515 or email