The Divi Carina Bay Resort beach was inviting, as were the samples from the contestants in the United Way’s Annual Chili Cookoff, but there were not many takers as in recent years.
Everyone there Sunday had a thought on why the sand in the square area surrounded by contestants’ booths was thinly populated instead of thickly populated like the area has been in the last dozen cookoffs. Was the departure of Hovensa finally making its full effect known? Were people tired after an election day? Did Tropical Storm Bertha upset weekend plans? Was it lack of promotions for the cookoff?
Nothing, however, stopped those that did make if out for the afternoon from having fun. The music was loud enough to get people dancing and the drinks were flowing freely.
United Way President Anita Davila said everyone there was having fun at the family focused event.
Paul Anderson was standing in front of his booth, Pirate’s Booty, pitching his chili saying it was “made with love” and that he “spent six hours last night just stirring it.”
Frances Benjamin, attending with Sydney Cornwall,10, said the cookoff is something safe and fun to do with children. She added they liked the Pirates Booty chili which had just a little tingle to it.
Michael Hartlage pegged Maria’s Cantina’s as the best. He said it was all meat and beans, the way chili should be.
“It tastes like chili is supposed to,” Hartlage said. He said he loves the cookoff and it was his sixth year attending. He said he noticed that attendance seemed way down this year and commented that he didn’t see any advertising or promotions for the cookoff.
Maria Fonrouge, from Maria’s Cantina, took first place for her Mexichili.
“It feels really cool being the winner,” Fonrouge said. “I’m so glad the people and judges liked my chili.”
Second place went to Jamaican Chili, and third went to Damn Good Chili.
All the judged chili had to be cooked on the beach and ingredients were inspected before cooking. Chili was prepared with beef, turkey, pork or chicken. Susan Anderson, from Pirates Booty, said they cooked up about 50 pounds of chili.
Every year one winner is chosen to represent St. Croix in the national cookoff in Terlingua, Texas, but United Way did not meet the required 15 entrants to get into the competition this year. There were 12 entrants this year and only five were serving chili. In 2012 there were 21 groups entered.
The cookoff was free to the public and the participants fee was $35 which included a case of Coors. Chili samples were $1 each. Boy Scout Troop 227 sold hot dogs and other refreshments to go along with the chili.
United Way funds six local human services agencies: Bethlehem House, Catholic Charities, Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, Legal Services and Interfaith Coalition.
Major sponsors for the cookoff were Bellows International, Divi Carina Bay Resort, TV 2, Executive Insurance Service, Innovative, Plaza Extra and V.I. Recycling Center.
Davila said they are making some changes at the organization working on new models and new initiatives to make the United Way services more inclusive beginning in 2015.
“Instead of competing for funds we’re joining forces with other organizations,” Davila said.