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Competition is getting hot

The goal: 200 gallons of chili.

Maureen Nelson, executive director of United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties, said they have set a goal of trying to get 50 participants — with four gallons of chili per participant — for this year's Chili Cook-Off.

The cook-off, in its 10th year, has typically been local to Red Wing and had around 27 or 28 participants, but this year Nelson said they have made an effort to attract more interest from their broader service area.

However, an extended effort to increase participation isn't the only difference from years past for this event.

"It's open to the public and anyone can come and purchase a ticket for five bucks," said Laura Prink, community impact manager at United Way.

Last year, tickets were given away and thmore than 500 people attended. Nelson said people asked why the tickets were given away because it was something for which they would be willing to pay.

Tickets to the event had to be purchased in the past, but that only brought in enough money to break even, Nelson said, since the United Way was responsible for providing everything except the chili for the event.

Now that Treasure Island Resort & Casino has partnered with United Way for the Chili Cook-Off — providing the room, condiments, bowls and spoons, and anything else needed — Nelson said it has become a great opportunity for a fundraiser.

"(Treasure Island) does everything for us. They're a great partner," Nelson said.

This is the third year the event will be in Treasure Island's Event Center.

The "People's Choice Award," which is the most coveted prize of the night, according to Nelson, also has a new spin this year.

Every individual ticket purchased will come with five tickets to vote for the people's choice. As the night progresses the results will be posted so everyone can see who is in the lead. More voting tickets can be purchased throughout the night so people can bump their chili up in the rankings.

Plus, judges will present individual awards for best display, best costume, best chili name, and hottest chili, to name a few.

Nelson said Bill Hanisch's entry from Hanisch Bakery is usually one of the highlights of the competition.

"He's very competitive about the Chili Cook-Off and does these grand displays. One year he did Christmas and had a big gingerbread house and lots of cookies. Last year he had a pirate ship. They do such a good job and they have so much fun with it," she said.

The competition is not limited to the chili, however.

Last year a competition between Dave Murphy, president of Red Wing Shoes, and Kevin Davison, director of station operations at Xcel Energy Prairie Island, to see who could raise the most money ended with Murphy dying his hair Ronald McDonald-red, Nelson said.

This year Murphy and Davison have extended the challenge to all CEO's who do workplace campaigns, she said, adding this event is always fun, but this year there is a little added rivalry.

This year there will be music by Chance Meetings and two emcees to go along with a new, bigger trophy for "People's Choice."

The best part of the cook-off?

"Just the sense of community. There are a lot of people having a good time," Nelson said.

Individuals or businesses interested in participating in the cook-off need to register with the United Way. This year the cook-off will be 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday Sept. 26. Tickets will be $7 at the door.

All receipts for ingredients must be kept and the chili must be prepared at a licensed facility. The Elks Club and the American Legion Club will be available for entries not from a professional organization operating a licensed kitchen.

Anyone with questions can contact Diane Maurer, donor relations coordinator, United Way at 651-388-6309 or

Pick a piggy, plump it up

The front window of the United Way office in Red Wing is full of pigs.

A new fundraising program has officially arrived.

"We came up with 'Pick a Piggy, Plump it Up' program," said Laura Prink, community impact manager for United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha, and Pierce Counties.

Every cent of the donations goes directly back to the community, Prink said.

Anyone can pick up and register a pig, which is a small, blue piggy bank, at the United Way office in Red Wing and take it home or to their office, or wherever they would like to set it up.

Prink said they would like to put the pigs in different businesses around town as well.

"No contribution is too small," she said.

The funds from individual pigs can be designated for specific areas of giving, said Maureen Nelson, executive director.

Nelson said people who have a pig can keep it for as long as they would like to fill it up.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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