Tomatoes, cumin, meat, and peppers were in most of the recipes, but each of the 14 entrants in the 15th annual Polson Rotary for Youth Chili Cook Off had their own secret ingredients and secret combinations. Each team of contestants hoped they would ‘wow’ the taste buds of the chili fans who moved from booth to booth trying all of the culinary concoctions. Teams for the event came from Bigfork, Ronan, and Polson.
The cooking began at 8:00 and the official tasting at 11:30 as the aroma from the spices simmering floated up from Riverside Park to tantalize the car enthusiasts on main street and the art lovers at the courthouse. By 11:30 a sizable crowd had gathered and many chatted with each other about the merits of each team’s chili as they made their way with their cups and spoons from booth to booth. Taste testers came and went until 2:00 when the results of the voting were announced.
‘The Red Hot Chili Mamas’ were the 1st place winners in both the Best Booth Decorations and Best Chili contests taking home a trophy and $500. The Mission Valley Aquatics Guardian Angels-Mission Valley Aquatics won 2nd place and $250 and 3rd place ($100) went to the St. Joseph Hospital Bull Shooters team.
The Chili cook off and associated raffle is the main event of the Polson Rotary Club that raises funds to support four youth groups or youth oriented non-profit organizations each year. This year those non-profit partners were Polson Bands, Polson Youth Golf, Mission Valley Aquatics and the Flathead Lakers Youth program. These partners, which were selected from many applicants, sold tickets for the raffle and received 100% of the money their organization raised from their ticket sales as well as additional funding from money raised by the Rotarians. The partners also had booths at the Chili cook off.
The Rotarians and the partners began selling raffle tickets June 1 and by the day of the event over $25,000 had been raised. That sum continued to grow until the drawing at 2:00. Over $7000 in prizes were raffled off including $1000 in gasoline donated by Payne West Insurance, $1000 in groceries donated by Super One, $1000 in cash donated by Glacier Bank and Duckworth Law Office, a year fitness pass at Mission Fitness Center in Polson, two season passes to the Mission Bay golf course, and a motorized bike worth $1250. During its 15 year history the chili cook off has raised over $320,000 to support youth groups and youth oriented non-profits in the Mission Valley.
This year’s event chair was Brett Richardson who was quick to note that 40-50 Rotarians participated in putting on the popular event. The group meets every Tuesday at noon at the Kwataqnuk and is always looking for more service-minded individuals to participate in its philanthropic activities.