Chili crowd warms up to mild weather

Mother Nature finally cooked up some mild weather, and combined with a huge crowd, had the right ingredients to make the fifth anniversary the most successful chili cook-off yet.

The crowds showed up at 1 p.m. and most seemed to stay until the winners were announced at about 5 p.m. Ray Clevenger said it was his first event in Exeter, since moving into town just a month ago, after living in San Fernando Valley for 26 years.

"I enjoy events like blues and jazz festivals or anything that brings the community together," Clevenger said. "In this case, chili is the glue instead of music. This seems like a really great community event."

Unlike past years, this year's chili cook off had more of a family atmosphere. Chuck Hardiman made it a guys afternoon with his three sons, Travis, 10, Kyle, 4, and Austin, 1. It was the first event for another boy as his mother pushed the five-day old baby around in a stroller.

The chili was again outstanding, most of it made with a fervor for flavor, not fever, although judge Ted Macaulay, Exeter City Councilman, repeatedly wiped his brow while tasting the 22 entries in the closed judging chamber. Other judges included Mayor Leon Ooley, Mayor Pro-Tem Charlie Norman, Assemblyman Bill Maze and wife Becky, District 1 Supervisor-elect Allen Ishida, Miss Exeter Samantha Sario and runner-up Shea Cosart. "They were slapping the table and yelling about how hot it was but I didn't think it was that hot," Sario said. Cosart agreed. The winners were announced by Chief Judge, and Exeter City Councilman, Jon Stearns.

Cook Grant Watson, sponsored by Drew Turner Construction, won first place for his chili and received the $750 grand prize.

The Halapena Hotties -- Priscilla Donaldson, Summer Silva and Wendy Wells -- cooked up the second place prize of $450 prize. The Halapena Hotties booth was sponsored by Dennis Kelly's 4-K Bar Ranch.

Third place chili, a $350 prize, went to cooks Curt and Ruby King sponsored by Ken Britten of Alta Peak Packing.

Best Costume, a $250 prize, went to the Survivor booth where Stephanie Biddle, Lisa Lake, Misti Dorais and Stephanie Young dressed in cowboy hats and outback attire. The theme, "Outcook, Outdrink, Outgas," for the booth was complete with sand, tiki torches and plants all in homage to the hit reality TV show. Their booth was sponsored by Lee and McLain Attorneys.

Best Booth's $250 prize went to Valerie DiMeco's Tangles. Also, five lucky raffle winners each won $100.

The money raised from the cook-off will be donated to Exeter Youth Football and the Exeter Chamber of Commerce.

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