The competition and winds were stiff Saturday at the annual Wheeling Feelin' Chili Cook-Off at Wheeling's Heritage Port where a larger-than-expected crowd tasted an array of chili recipes, enjoyed live entertainment and cheered on the cooks.
The annual chili cook-off is an International Chili Society-sanctioned event and the winner will represent Wheeling in the next level of competition in Charleston, W.Va. Tom Hoover of Columbus, Ohio, captured the first-place award and $1,000 for his red chili recipe. Hoover is no stranger to the stovetop, as he also was named the world champion chili maker in 2010 in Manchester, N.H.
Other first-place winners included Gail Kyle of Deerborn, Mich., who won for her salsa recipe. Terry VanLehn of Charleston won for her chili verde, also known as green chili.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
Stephen and Marissa Crow of Wheeling enjoy samples of the chili offerings Saturday at the Wheeling Feelin’ Chili Cook-Off at Heritage Port. A large crowd finished off every drop of chili at the event.
Stewart Grimes of Wheeling took home the People's Choice of Wheeling award; Ron Maclay, also of Wheeling, won the Best of Wheeling prize; and Les Hunt of Wheeling won the Rookie of the Year honor.
In the commercial division, River City Ale Works won first place; Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack won second place; and Ye Olde Alpha came in third. Honorable mention went to T.J.'s, Generations and the Soup Shack.
A windy, chilly day greeted cooks and visitors to the cook-off, presenting a number of challenges. The large crowd quickly emptied the chili pots and chefs scrambled to make more food to please the hungry crowd. The wind blew over several of the tents but they were quickly rescued and replanted in the ground.
A number of cooks said the wind kept dousing the flames on their cooking stoves but most managed to finish their recipes. Vendors selling other refreshments reported a brisk business.
Allison O'Konski, marketing and community relations director for the city of Wheeling, said visitors were flocking to the event because the weather was cooler than in previous years.
"Some of them ran out of chili and people really enjoyed the green chili," O'Konski said. "The commercial vendors are reporting huge lines."
Sherry and Cliff Sligar of Wheeling said they thought the event was a good time even if they did have to wait for more chili to arrive..
"I love the chili, but it's great to see so many people I haven't seen for a while," Cliff said.
The chili cook-off also served as a fundraiser for the Upper Ohio Valley United Way. Visitors purchased tickets that entitled them to sample chili at the various booths. Some people said they were disappointed when the booths ran out of chili, but stayed to listen to music provided by DejaVu, a crowd-pleaser with their tunes from the '50s through the '70s.