CROSSLAKE - The warm, spicy aroma was not the only thing in the air at the 21st annual Chili Cook-Off in Crosslake Saturday.
The sound of chatter and laughter also was in the air as hundreds of people sampled chili at 27 booths at businesses throughout Crosslake.
People came by car, by bicycle and by foot to wait in lines, some longer than others, to get another taste of the numerous varieties of chili. When all the chili was tasted, the people voted for their favorite.
The three judges - Pete Gaylord of Breezy Point Resort, Bob Komischke of Manhattan Beach Lodge and Doug Brostrom of Birchwood - gave Manhattan Beach Lodge top honors for their chili. Zorbaz took second place and Home Halo took third.
Scott Johnson, one of the Crosslake Fire Department chili chefs, served up the department's Firehouse Chili Saturday for the 21st Annual Chili Cook-Off. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Gaylord said he judged the samples of chili on their consistency, amount of protein and vegetables, overall taste, originality and presentation. He said this year there were two types of white chili entered into the cook-off, which is original. He said one was good and the other one needed more spice.
Gaylord said judging the chili recipes was tough because there were a lot of good flavors. He said he'd taste one chili and it'd be cut and dry that it wasn't the best chili, but then he'd taste another chili that was good.
"This is a great event," Gaylord said of the chili cook-off. "Crosslake does a great job putting everything together and they have a blast doing it."
Judges Doug Brostrom (left), Bob Komischke and Pete Gaylord tasted all 27 chili varieties Saturday at the 21st Annual Chili Cook-Off during Crosslake Days. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Doreen Gallaway of Build All Lumber of Crosslake, who was chairwoman of Crosslake Days, said the businesses take all the events seriously and people have a good time. Gallaway said the events are good for the community.
Other events for Crosslake Days, which also celebrated the Crosslake Fire Department's 40th anniversary, included the sixth annual Classic Car Show at the Crosslake Fire Hall, a pig roast sponsored by the Crosslake Volunteer Fire Department, kids day at the park and the ninth annual Junior Golf Tournament at Crosswoods Golf Course.
Chris Leonard of the Crosslake Fire Department said they've been doing the chili cook-off for two years. Last year the fire department took second place.
Leonard, Scott Johnson and Dean Olson, who cooked the chili, said they used 40 pounds of fresh beef, 18 pounds of onions, cilantro, fresh garlic and a few other secret ingredients to make their chili. They then cooked it slowly overnight.
Dean Olson (left) and Scott Johnson, two of the Crosslake Fire Department chili chefs, served up their Firehouse Chili. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Leonard said the chili is the department's original fire house recipe.
Bart Taylor of First Federal Bank in Crosslake has been making chili for the cook-off for 12 years. He adds two pork shoulders and Karlsburger seasoning in his chili.
"I haven't won for a long time," said Taylor. "But that's because I keep doing the same recipe. The people seem to like it, but not the judges."
Taylor said it's unbelievable at how many people Crosslake Days brings in. He said everyone has a great time and each year one business gets bragging rights to the best chili.
Bart Taylor of First Federal Bank in Crosslake held on Saturday his 15-month daughter Millie during the 21st Annual Chili Cook-Off during Crosslake Days. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Ted Strand, who cooked the chili for Crosslake Charter School, modified his mother's chili recipe. He said he couldn't share his recipe, but said the chili is the chili of choice at the competition.
Strand, who is the Crosslake Charter School board chairman, said this is the school's first year in the cook-off. Strand joked that his only objective in the cook-off is to beat the fire department.
Phyllis and Don Wurdeman of Crosslake have been attending the event for seven years. The couple said they know which stops have their favorite chili, including Crosslake Drug, Judy's House of Gifts and Channel Liquors.
"We don't care for it to be too spicy," said Phyllis. "This is a good lunch and it's fun to see everyone."
A sign at the Crosslake Fire Department invited people to try their entry. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Marilee Hartman of Okabena has been coming to Crosslake for years specifically for the chili cook-off, the Crosslake Art Show and to tour the Crosslake Area Historical Society.
"It's fun," said Hartman, who has family in the area. "The people are friendly and the chilies are so delicious."
Georgi Ashlin of Crosslake has been coming to the chili cook-off for the past nine to 10 years. She likes the chili and the socializing with the people.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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