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United Way's annual cook-off attracts 22 teams of creative cooks

A crew from Fairview Red Wing Medical Center serves up chili at the 2008 Chili Cook-Off. United Way board member Pam Horlitz (left) visits with the cooking team of Sondee and Dr. Tom Blee and Jean Diercks; Jack Blee is in front. This year's event is Oct. 29.1 / 2
United Way board members Amy Nelson and Gary Iocco get in the mood at the 2008 Chili Cook-Off. This year's event on Oct. 29 will feature chili made by 22 local teams.2 / 2

What: United Way Chili Cook-Off

Where: Red Wing National Guard Armory, East Seventh Street

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday

Cost: Adults $5, children $3

Twenty-two teams will serve up tasty concoctions at the sixth United Way Chili Cook-Off Thursday at the Red Wing National Guard Armory, East Seventh Street.

The teams represent companies of all sizes, from Treasure Island Resort & Casino to Potters on Main; and businesses including Associated and White Rock banks, ProAct, the Goodhue County Education District and the Red Wing Police Department, which recently won a city chili cook-off. Organizations also participate, including Youth Outreach and Hope Coalition.

The names they have bestowed on their chilis are as inventive as the recipes, according to Laurie Andrews, event coordinator for the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce counties.

For starters, there'll be Nuclear Grade Chili (Xcel Energy), Heat & Glo Chili (Hearth and Home of Lake City), and Un4Gettable Chili (Marie's Casual Dining).

Not to mention the ever-popular H1N1 - Healthy One, Nummy One - Chili (Fairview Red Wing Medical Center); D.A.T. Chili (Goodhue County Red Cross); and Road Kill Chili (KWNG Classic Hits).

This year, Andrews said, there's even an individual in the competition. Bill Mason will serve up Chili Willy's Chili.

Hanisch Bakery, which served the People's Choice favorite chili in the professional division, returns with Home Sweet Home Chili. The amateur division favorite, Edina Realty, also will be back to defend the title.

Fairview won Best Chili among pros in 2008; the Red Wing Elks Club cooked up the top amateur entry.

Professionals and amateurs all face the same challenge: prepare 3 gallons of chili and convince tasters it's the best they've ever had.

Judges will sample each chili before the event is opened to the public. They'll pick their favorites, and everyone else will have a chance to vote for People's Choice. Awards also will be given for best costume, best display, best name, most unusual and hottest.

With Halloween fast approaching, Andrews said, they anticipate stiff competition in the presentation categories.

The winners will get trophies.

A new award is being added this year, Andrews said: The Grand Tooter. It will go to the team that sells the most tickets. Tickets -- which cost $5 for adults, $3 for kids 6 to 12, free to 5 and under -- may be purchased from participating teams, at the United Way office downtown or at the door.

To complement the chili, the United Way will provide cornbread, crackers, sour cream, cheese and onions.

The Red Wing Girl Scouts will sell ice cream and milk, and the Boy Scouts will sell soft drinks.

Organizers anticipate a big crowd, Andrews said. When the cook-off was held at Mississippi National Golf Links, it drew about 300 people. Last year at the Armory, 600 people came to eat.

"It just keeps growing," she said. "It is a fun way to show one of the important things United Way does: Bring the community together," Andrews added.

The agency, which is kicking off its fall fundraising campaign, will have displays and information about participating agencies and activities set up in a resource room. The campaign video also will be available to view.

For more information, call (651) 388-6309 or go online to