Several of the 15 teams at the 29th annual Budweiser/Bud Light chili cook off on Saturday, Feb. 18, have worked together for some time, but preparing and serving chili is not their main occupation.
Among them was the five-member first-place team, who all work for the BNSF Railroad. Richard Tate, a 36-year BNSF employee, explained their winning Boxcar Willie Chili was made “by putting our hearts and minds into it. ... We wanted to please everybody’s taste buds, and we had a lot of return customers.”
Additional members of this team were Ron Knutelski, Chris Hooley, Doug Stout and Brian Fessenden. This is their third year to bring their chili to the cook off at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center in Hannibal, Mo., and it has previously won third place.
Knutelski offered a written “history” of the Boxcar Willie Chili, which states it originated outside rail yards in Arizona and New Mexico. He wrote the chili includes four southwestern spices picked up outside slaughter houses. Also, it states, as he rode the rails, Boxcar Willie (William Otis Humphrey) always carried his bag of mixed spices for his chili, and he told stories about making his chili at campfires.
The Nutters team from Washington, Mo., won second-place in the chili cook off, and the Junction’s chili won third place.
Honorable mention went to 511 Chili of New London, Mo. This was the favorite chili tasted by Joe Donelson of Saverton, mo., who reported “it was hot, and I like it hot.”
Nearby, Tonya Cox said she preferred the Boss chili, and her friend Emma Dooley chose the Nutters.
At the Junction booth, Corey Fry, manager of the Junction restaurant at highway 19 and 154, said they had been in the chili cook off for 11 years. “We enjoy doing it and dealing with the public.” With him were Minda Janes and Alex Kennedy, wearing the large beads in keeping with the Mardi Gras theme.
In the costume contest the Moms and Pops booth won first place, and second place went to “Heck of a Chili, Ain’t it?” from Tom Boland Ford. Boland Sales Manager Jason Meininger said his booth won because they had brought “the best selling truck in the United States, for 35 years.” This was a 2012 Ford F150.
Also in this booth were Brandon Perkins, Matt Reische and Johnny Von Burg.
Two contests were offered this year. Shawn Otten won the chili dog eating contest.
In the Louisville chugger contest, the Kerleys team took first place, followed by the Moonshiners.
Cathie Whelan of the sponsoring Golden Eagle Distributing reported this year for the first time a People’s Choice Award was presented. It was won by Rumor Has It. As the huge crowd began to depart late Saturday afternoon, Whelan could not guess how many people had attended, but reported “it’s been a very nice day.”
Page 2 of 2 - Proceeds will go toward construction of Moberly Area Community College’s Hannibal campus. Whelan reported the Nutters team donated half of their prize money back for the community education project.
The cook off was cosponsored by the Hannibal Jaycees, with Shana Noah and Rhonda Stevenson in charge.
“We had a good crowd,” Noah said. “They had a good time doing the games,” and that will “give us a foundation for next year.”