Big Chili Cook-off returns to Waterworks

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 5, 2022

SALISBURY — After a two-year absence due to COVID restrictions, the annual Waterworks Visual Arts Center’s Big Chili Cook-off returned to the F&M Trolley Barn on Oct. 29, and more than 200 people showed up to celebrate the event.

Guests had been encouraged to “go western” in their attire, and they did so with lots of boots, hats, fringe and even some sequined cowboy duds.

The event helps fund the area’s only public art gallery and teaching center.

Waterworks’ Executive Director Anne Scott Clement, said, “We are truly grateful to everyone who made this event possible and so successful. Their support enables Waterworks to make a positive difference in the Salisbury-Rowan County community and across the region.”

This year’s cook-off showed that folks are definitely ready to get back out in public and have some fun. While most chili cook-offs have three or four supposed “experts” who pick the best chili while the guests watch, this one lets the guests get in on the action and do the choosin’.

Volunteer cooks, representing a number of nonprofits and local businesses, shared their culinary talents as they competed for the People’s Choice Big Chili Award. Guests visited each of the thirteen cooks stations to enjoy a 2-ounce chili shot, which they could then compare with the others. They delighted in a variety of chili recipes, ranging from traditional bean and meat, vegetarian, to white bean, chicken, and venison. Fresh, locally sourced ingredients were well represented.

Many of the chefs enhanced their recipes with flavorful condiments such as sour cream, onions, cheese and hot sauce, as well as adding delicious sides like cornbread muffins, doughnuts and lemonade. Those add-ons may have also helped get some votes. Each guest received a bag of fifteen “gold” coins to vote on their favorites. They could use them all on one favorite or spread them among all thirteen.

To complement the chili, downtown Salisbury’s Abigail’s-A Cake Affair and Sidewalk Deli provided sweet provisions —  mini cupcakes and homemade chocolate chip cookies. United Beverage of North Carolina and Cheerwine, the official beverages of Waterworks, offered a variety of beer, soft drinks and water.

This year’s event featured Virtual Sounds providing the music and offered guests the opportunity to share their love of singing with karaoke.

Waterworks’ Board member Debbie Lucas and husband Rick Lewis challenged guests to a lasso contest (equipment provided by Jenna and Dwayne Griggs). Contenders had three tries at roping the “bull.” Steve Jarrett and Dennis Ingold won the rope toss, each receiving a gift certificate, compliments of The Texas Roadhouse. Guests also had the opportunity to visit a photo booth, bedecked with cowboy hats, bandannas and jewels, for festive selfies and group pictures.

Once the chili tasting was declared officially ended and all the coins counted, cooks and teams were called forward to be recognized and each presented with a commemorative handmade pottery chili bowl created by Cheryl Goins of Pottery 101.

The 2022 Cook Teams represented the following organizations/businesses: Center for Faith and the Arts, Community Care Clinic of Rowan County, F&M Bank,  Heritage Room/Escape Central, Jasmine’s Creole Kitchen, Lee Street theatre, Livingstone College Culinary Arts, New Sarum Brewing Company, Rowan Helping Ministries, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, The Forum.

Individual cooks were: Rick Lewis and Debbie Lucas – Game Night Chili and  Mark Lyerly.

The winners of this year’s Big Chili Cook-off were:

• 1st Place – Matthew and Melody Marsh – The Forum

• 2nd Place – Reg Boland – St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

• 3rd Place – Nathan Valentine – Rowan Helping Ministries

• 4th Place – Andy Maben and Hampton Ratcliff – New Sarum Brewing Company

Sponsors include: Abigail’s-A Cake Affair, Greg and Missie Alcorn, Brent Parks, CPA, Central Carolina Insurance, Cheerwine, Cloninger Ford Toyota, Fisher Realty, Don Fortner, DMD, Debbie Lucas and Rick Lewis, David Post, Pottery 101, The Lettered Lily, Salisbury Motor Company, SALCOA Contracting, Inc., The Salisbury Post, Sidewalk Deli, United Beverage of North Carolina and Wallace & Graham Gives.

Waterworks Visual Arts Center is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Its mission is to provide diverse opportunities in the arts for all people through exhibitions, education and outreach programs. Waterworks is funded by individual memberships, corporations and businesses, foundations, the City of Salisbury, Rowan County, and the Rowan Arts Council. The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, a federal grant-making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners by helping libraries and museums serve their communities, supports the Waterworks Visual Arts Center. This project received support from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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