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Fire & Rescue hosts chili event

(L-R) Fire fighters Scott Allyn, Matt Myers and Robin Haffner prepare the first batch of chili for judging at Saturday's Chili Feed fundraiser for the New Richmond Fire Department.

"Your first chili's your baseline. After that, you're really comparing everything else to that first one, how much better is the next one than the first one."

That was New Richmond mayor, fireman and chili judge, Fred Horne explaining his philosophy on judging chili. The mayor joined five fellow judges sampling bowls of more than 20 homemade chilies during the spring chili feed fundraiser for the New Richmond Fire Department.

On a day with weather befitting a chili feed, hundreds of residents young and old alike filed through a lengthy buffet line beginning with bowls of the fire house chili, hot dogs and cheesy nachos through dishes of homemade pasta and popcorn salads into a maze of chocolate chip cookies and deserts and ending in a crowd of crock pots simmering with chilies made from time honored secret family recipes.

"This our third year. We judge the chilies in three categories: mild, medium and hot," said Assistant Fire Chief and chili contestant, Robin Haffner.

Judges looked at texture, flavor and appearance in awarding a first, second and third place in each category and an overall winner, the Judge's Choice. It cost $15 to enter your favorite recipe with the pot being split amongst the winners.

"I have an entry in the hot category, " said Haffner, "It will clear your nose, but it's all about flavor. Hot's not that great if it doesn't taste good."

All the food was free with a good will donation. In addition to donations, there was a raffle and silent auction with all of the money raised going toward rescue training.

"After the judging, everyone will have an opportunity to taste all of the different entries. Last year we fed a little over a thousand people," Haffner said.

Team members of last year's hot category winner, Tim Eder, John Kelly and Ken Sandy, were attempting to repeat.

"It's slightly modified from last year's recipe. We kicked it up a notch," Eder said.

Following the judging an hour later, second place winner Eder said, "We're very disappointed. We will definitely be back next year with a vengeance."

Would vengeance show up as an ingredient in next year's recipe, "I hope so," said Eder.

Stacey Ehlenfeldt, first place winner in the mild category, was also proudly representing the high school.

"This is the chili I make for the high school students," she said. "It's the same recipe as our Chicken Chili Friday Soup."

As afternoon wore into evening, there was still plenty of chili to go around and plenty of fellowship to be shared.

Blue clad firemen escorted kids on and off fire trucks while parents snapped photos framing dreams for hanging on bedroom walls. Black rubber boots filled with fives and tens testified to a community's appreciation of its volunteer heroes.

Fire Chief Jim VanderWyst said about $4,800 was raised through the event. He said he wanted to thank everyone who showed up to support the department.