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Mark Steck and the Rev. Adam Arends show off the large sign in front of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, advertising the `first annual` chili cook-off.
Mark Steck and the Rev. Adam Arends show off the large sign in front of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, advertising the "first annual" chili cook-off.

St. Timothy Lutheran Church to hold first chili cook-off

Sat, Mar 2nd 2024 07:00 am

Story and Photo by Alice Gerard

A very special guest may make an appearance at St. Timothy Lutheran Church’s first chili cook-off, scheduled for March 9 at the church, 1453 Staley Road.

Visitors will have the opportunity to taste a variety of chilis from 4-6 p.m. Judging of the chilis is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., followed by the awarding of prizes to the first and second place winners.

“Kids are encouraged to come, and there might be an appearance by the Easter Bunny,” said the Rev. Adam Arends, the church’s pastor, who described the potential visit as a “preview appearance.”

This event, which is open to people of all ages, was two years in the making.

Mark Steck, a member of the chili cook-off planning committee, explained, “We thought of the idea two years ago. I brought it to the church council. We were in the middle of COVID, so we thought we would wait because the time didn’t seem right. Last fall, I brought it to the council again. Everyone said, ‘Yeah, this is great. Let’s move forward with this.’ We started our planning early in December, before the holidays.”

The event will feature a number of chefs, who plan on sharing their own version of chili.

“There’s probably going to be a few vegetarian recipes available, and all the chili will be marked hot, vegetarian, venison, whatever you need,” Arends said. Currently, 18 chefs have signed up to cook and serve their individual versions of chili.

The goal of the event is for cooks to vie for the honor of the best chili chef, as well as to create a community event for Grand Island. Attendees at the chili cook-off will have the opportunity to taste as many different chilis as they like, as well as to serve as judges in the competition for the best chili.

According to Steck, some of the cooks have already decided their victory is a foregone conclusion: “Some are being very boastful. Yep, they all think that they are going to win.”

“There are certain members who have said, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve won awards already.’ So, they’re ready,” Arends related. “I plan to cook, as well, and I plan to win nothing, so I have very low expectations. I’m glad to be a part of things. To me, it’s being a community together, to have people from Grand Island or wherever come and be together.”

“One of the things pastor brought last year was connecting with God and connecting with neighbors,” Steck said. “It’s something he introduced to the congregation. With the chili cook-off, it’s always been a communitywide event. Invite the neighbors into the church. Introduce them to our congregation and, at the same time, people like to boast about their chili, their chili recipes. People like to come in and eat. They think they make the best chili, so let’s see who really does. We will judge on it and decide who the winner is.”

Arends added, “As a pastor, I believe strongly that God is present at worship, of course, but God doesn’t just stop on Sunday morning. God can show up at a chili cook-off. God shows up in our handshakes and our conversations and our sharing our stories and being community together. So, from my perspective, this is a fellowship event. This is a ministry event in that it is ministry when we gather in good will and work together.

“We’re just really hoping that community members come in. Of course, we invite all our members. We’ve invited the members of our day care center and the families there. We’d love to have community members come in and make this a place where we can meet together, whether they attend another church or are looking for a church. We welcome them here to see what we’re all about and to be neighbors together.”

Steck said he is looking for people, both judges and chefs, to participate in the chili cook-off.

“I think, at this point, we’ve sold 88 tickets, which is probably surpassing what we thought,” he said. “We have 18 chefs. We’re hoping for 20-30, at the most. We’re well on our way to getting more chefs and having a room full of people.”

In addition to participating in the chili cook-off by either tasting and judging the food or by preparing the food, people are asked to bring a donation for the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation.

Arends said, “They’re requesting specifically canned meat, tuna, mayonnaise, and hygiene items, including hand soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and deodorant.”

Arends expressed thanks to Steck and to the chili cook-off committee for making the event possible.

“I want to thank the committee, who has done a lot of hard work for a few months in getting things ready,” he said. “I’ve really been able to let them take care of it, which has been awesome. They’ve done all the hard work in thinking and selling tickets. Thank you to the whole committee and, especially, to Mark for the idea. Cathy Freer has done a lot of work, as well.”

Steck also expressed thanks to committee members Karen Sturniolo and Kimberly Yeager for the work that they did to make the event possible.

The committee also included Terry Glassman, Dorine Fabio, Karen Rose, Lauren Steck, Tracy Mars and Arends.

“I’m excited to have a community event. People can get together and have a friendly competition,” Arends said.

Judges will also be eligible to win prizes, Steck said. He noted, “I think that we’re also going to have some door prizes provided by the child care center.”

Steck said he would like to see this event be the first of many chili cook-offs.

“We’d like it to be an annual event,” he said. “In fact, our sign says, ‘first annual,’ just to emphasize the fact that we’re going to continue to do this, year after year.”

Tickets cost $5 presale or $7 on the day of the event. Tickets for a children’s meal will cost $5. The children’s meal will include a hot dog, a bag of chips, and a juice box.

For more information about the chili cook-off, check St. Timothy’s website at https://www.sttimothygrandisland.com/.

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