Chili Cook-Off a Huge Success
"This event is exactly what Ryan enjoyed. He would have been here visiting, smiling and sharing his wry humor. Being with people and making them feel special was not a job to Ryan. He loved every minute."
Shared by Ron Kemp at the Rector Community Center on Saturday evening, Feb. 28, these words offered a glimpse of the man after whom the Chili Cook-Off is now named. The Ryan Rogers Memorial Chili Cook-Off captured the intent of the organizers as a huge crowd ate chili, jambalaya and soup, laughed and shared their surprise at the not-forecasted snowfall that morning.
Contestants began arriving at 4:30 p.m. The Community Center Committee greeted them, helping them find their set-up location at tables near the stage. Each set of tables was supplied with plug-ins for crockpots. Soon, the 20 contestants' entries were ready and they drew numbers to facilitate the blind taste-test for the judges who were sequestered in the executive room. The judging was well organized with the numbered bowls being presented so the judges would have time to award points and cleanse their palates between rounds. The judges were Stephen Speer, Kenny Burns, Shayne Roofe, Laramie LeQuieu, David Romine and Steven Sigsby.
The Community Center Committee prepared drinks, a never-ending supply of yummy desserts, and kept the condiments table filled with grated cheese, corn chips, onions and sour cream. After a welcome at 6:15 by Marvin Gatewood, event chair, the crowd began to gather bowls of their choice. Music accompanied conversation and dining. Mayor Teresa Roofe offered a few comments and thanked the organizers of the event. Kemp recognized Ryan Rogers' family and spoke briefly of how much Ryan meant to him personally and to the community as a whole. The first Cook-Off Chili-bowl Trophy, which Ryan won with "Fat Man Chili" was retired and presented to his family.
The judges soon had their decisions and the presentations were made. Winners of the event were announced and invited to the front to resounding applause. Each person who placed received a certificate and a cash award. In addition, first place in each category received a small, engraved take-home trophy. Gatewood revealed the new plaque which will remain in the lobby of the Community Center. It displays the names of the winners, beginning with the first winner in 2013 -- Ryan Rogers, the second winner in 2014 -- David Cagle, and the new 2015 plate, which will contain the names of the three first place winners in chili, jambalaya and soup.
By 7:30 p.m., the crockpots were empty and desserts were down to a few. Conversation about how much fun everyone had experienced and good-natured joking could be heard all evening. Don Kirklin said, "Since my chili did not win anything, I'll have to consider changing from Wendy's chili to something else next year!"
Kim Isom brought two crockpots filled with her special recipe and both were consumed. Sherry Douglas went home for another pot of Jeff's jambalaya. Legend Equipment brought one crockpot of soup for judging and one crockpot of chili for "fun."
The Community Center Committee also offered bowls of chili and two batches were devoured. This crowd was seriously hungry and several diners suggested having a new category for next year, "Peoples' Choice Award!"
Legend Equipment supplied prizes for a name-in-the-hat drawing. Their table hosted much traffic with give-aways including caps, pens and drink covers, offered to folks just for stopping by the table. Charlie Grimes won a backpack and Caidyn Speer won a toy John Deere tractor that was just his size.
Winners announced Saturday night: chili: Farren Young, first; David Cagle, second; Joy Banning, third; jambalaya: Jeff Douglas, first; Abie Petty, second; Nate Henderson, third; soup: Jessie Petty, first; David Cagle, second, and Jeff Douglas, third.
Yes, Ryan would have loved this event. Now he will be forever a part of it.