With the weather staying relatively cold, perfect chili weather is here, and two Oak Grove locals thought there's no better way to bring the community together than a chili cook-off.
John Campbell and Richard Lestienne Jr. have partnered with the Oak Grove Community Center to organize the very first chili cook-off in the city from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the community center.
“I felt like we needed some type of small event that would help start (bringing the community together),” Campbell said.
“I also think a competitive thing such as a cook-off is good for community too,” Lestienne said, "because competition doesn’t always drive people apart — it can bring them closer."
“It’s good to compete with your neighbors in a fun way, and I think that adds to the cook-off," Campbell added.
Lestienne added that, while Oak Grove does have some community events, there aren’t very many where the public can get involved in participating like they can in a chili cook off.
Campbell came up with the idea roughly a month and a half ago and reached out to Lestienne for help, knowing he had been active in recent community events such as Oak Grove Community Cares.
From there, Campbell and Lestienne reached out to Community Center Director Melissa Lynch to host the event at the community center as well as help them set rules for the cook-off.
According to those rules, up to 20 people can compete, with around 10 currently signed up. Cooks must use at least one vegetable and must have either beef, chicken or pork.
Contestants must also be able to feed between 20 to 40 1.5-ounce servings for tasting and must cook offsite.
Organizers also created a judging panel that includes Oak Grove Mayor Theresa Jarvis, Christian County Magistrate Phillip Peterson and Oak Grove Police Lt. Rick McCormack.
The duo said people who attend can expect good chili and socialization, and attendees can also help contestants win prizes.
“There’s a chance to get in there and taste the chili, mingle with your fellow residents, competitors, neighbors or your friends and get some chili,” Campbell said. "It’s cold out, and it’s that time of year. I love chili so I’ll be out there, and if 20 people show up (as cooks), that would be great.”
Participants have a chance to win two awards, one from the panel of judges and the People's Choice Award voted on by the public. Both award winners will be given prizes as well as bragging rights for the year.
Judging will begin at 12:45 p.m., with the judge's award and the People’s Choice Award to be announced at 1 p.m.
Campbell and Lestienne are hoping the event will not only be a success, but will be the first of many cook-offs to come.
“We’re hoping for the start of something great, the start of something that turns into something bigger,” Lestienne said.
Anyone interested in competing in the chili cook-off may email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Lestienne or Campbell through Facebook.
Reach Avery Seeger at 270-887-3236 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AveryNewEra