Wheeling’s Heritage Port was alive with people, food, music and the aroma of chili Saturday.
The Wheeling Feeling Chili Cook-Off drew 21 competitors in the traditional red category, 19 in the verde (green) group, 11 who competed in the vegetarian category, 19 who made homestyle and even three youth competitors.
And that’s the category that festival co-founder Brian Warmuth would love to see grow next year.
He urges parents with children who show an interest in cooking to get them to sign up to compete in the youth category next year.
“A good time will be had by all,” he promised.
People of all ages and chili preferences packed the waterfront, buying tickets and trying tiny cup-size portions to see what appealed to them.
Judy Rebich of Wheeling says she likes the Eat N Park chili from the restaurant category the best.
“I think I had every chili here!” she said. “Eat N Park is my very favorite. I don’t like green chili or sweet.”
“I like some heat but not a whole lot,” said her husband, Don Rebich. “I’m not a green chili fan. I’ve had several really good ones here. I’m not a fan of the real sweet chili.”
Ron Keys of Blacksburg, Virginia, entered his Death Row Chili.
You might think it is killer hot.
“It is a little hot, but it didn’t used to be,” explained Keys. “That was just to bring the people in and get them curious. But since then, we’ve kicked it up a notch or two.”
David Bartsch of St. Clairsville enters both his traditional red chili and his green chili as well.
But wait, there’s more….
“I make clam queso, chicken queso, I have a regular salsa and I have a tomato avocado mango peach salsa which is to die for!” Bartsch says.
People sell tickets, and a ticket gets you a taste of whatever kind of chili you want to try.
Then you’ll know your favorite.
The aromas, the sights, the live music and of course the tastes of chili are all enjoyable.
But best of all, it’s for a good cause.
“The United Way is made of up 30 different agencies around the Ohio Valley,” said Karen Haught, executive director of The Seeing Hand, one of those agencies. “They serve the underprivileged and all the proceeds from today are going to help serve the United Way agencies.