Bad Weather Fails to Dampen Annual Ryan Rogers Chili Cook-Off
Chili, soup, jambalaya and tornado warnings, “oh, my!” Saturday night's excitement started with torrential rain and judging in the Ryan Rogers Memorial Cook-off, held at the Rector Community Center. Sequestered in the executive room, the judges-Shawn Parker, Brett McMillin, Shannon Haywood, Cody Carter, Ronnie Brandaberry and Amber Green tasted 12 chili entries, six soup entries, and three jambalaya entries. Two sets of three volunteers judged chili in one set and soup and jambalaya in the other set. By 6 p.m. the results were in and the crowd began to gather their sample bowls to taste all the contestants’ recipes. Condiments were available on a center table and soft drinks and tea were set up toward the front of the Crockett Multi-Purpose Room. The Community Center Committee covered 20 tables with red and white vinyl toppers and placed racks of crackers and paper towels on each.
Close to 100 patrons arrived between rain storms. When the tornado alert sounded on many phones, instructions were given for safety, but the alert was lifted quickly. Nevertheless, several Clay County Sheriff’s Department officers and first responders were called out and left immediately, with lights and sirens, headed for west Clay County where damage had been reported. After the warnings had cleared Clay County, more hungry diners arrived to enjoy the contestants’ offerings along with house chili, potato soup, and an array of desserts prepared by the Community Center Committee.
The family of Ryan Rogers’ were seated at a special table and were in their usual good spirits, remembering how much Ryan would have enjoyed such an event. The contest was named in his memory as he was the cook-off’s first winner. He was also a champion of Clay County and a friend to all who were fortunate to know him.
The winners were announced in the three categories, awarded cash prizes for first, second, and third place. First place winners also were presented a small trophy. A frequent champion, Farron Young took first prize and the trophy in chili. The City of Rector’s Jerry Mansfield and Brad Green were awarded second, and Steve Horton, a first-time entry, took third. A recurring winner, Kristy Beasley and her soup entry won first place and collected the cash prize and trophy. Awarded second in the soup division was Markie Young and third place was awarded to another first-time entry, David Blackmon who represented the MFA Agr-Services Mid-South. The Jambalaya category was slim this year but quite tasty. Tom Colbert’s entry took first place again this year, followed by David Blackmon of the MFA team with second, and David Cagle awarded third place. The crowd selected Farron Young for People’s Choice award.
During the remainder of the evening, while desserts were being enjoyed, the cash door prize was awarded to Kim Bradford who was most excited when her name was drawn from the entries. Another fun activity was a round of Name That Tune. Several tables were quite active in shouting out the names to familiar songs while only hearing three to seven seconds of introduction.
Regardless of the stormy weather that kept many people at home, organizers say the result was terrific and fun for all who attended, which is a main reason people return year after year.
“The committee is going to be looking into receiving bids for upgrading and expanding the parking lot and adding more padded chairs to make seating more comfortable for people who attend community center events throughout the year,” community center director Linda Robinson noted.
Chair of the event, Marvin Gatewood, acknowledged how well the community center committee works together to make this event a success. Gatewood had collected a sizeable sum in donations from area businesses, asking only for $25. Some businesses give more, but because of the many merchants who support the overall project, the cost of supplies and expenses were covered, This allowed organizers to the meal and family evening for only $5 per person, $20 maximum for immediate family.
All proceeds from the annual event will go toward support the community center, and will serve to help remember Ryan Rogers’ love for Clay County--and delicious chili.