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Culinary contest draws town to harvest festival

The aroma of steaming stew and smoking coals filled the grassy expanse behind Ronan’s coals filled the grassy expanse behind Ronan’s Visitor Center, welcoming the community to Saturday’s eighth annual Harvest Fest featuring a Dutch Oven Cook-Off.

Seven teams competed cooking cobblers, breads, lasagne, stew and other mouth-watering recipes.

With Dutch ovens stacked four high, Valley Bank employees and their families baked cornbread and simmered stew, and won the award for presentation.

“We did win the Chili Cook-Off two years in a row,” employee Kim Snyder said as she stirred potatoes into the beef and carrot mix. “It makes me want to go out and get Dutch ovens.”

Dan Nightengale kept the coals hot while explaining he was self-taught. He’s even cooked pizza in the cast-iron pots during church camping trips.

“I just do it for fun,” he said.

Last June, 20 people took a Dutch oven cooking class offered through the Ronan Chamber of Commerce taught by Anza and Dennis LaBonty of Polson.

“It was an excellent, excellent class,” competitor Janette Rosman said as she waited for her entry to cook. Another class will be offered in June 2017, according to Harvest Fest coordinator Ronna Walchuk.

A scarecrow-decorating contest provided competition that didn’t require culinary prowess. Neighbors visited as they strolled along vendor booths selling everything from homecrafted cheese to bedsheets. Children knocked over bowling pins with pumpkins and petted animals courtesy of Saddle Mountain 4-H. The 4-H-ers sold baked goods to help fund a June trip to Finland, and they plan additional fundraisers in the future.

It was also the time to vote for a favorite of nearly 50 hay bales decorated in Ronan and stretching along Highway 93 from south of town up through Pablo.

The event is put on by the Ronan Chamber of Commerce. Leevi Wadsworth was the winner of a Polaris ATV. Proceeds from the raffle will help improve the Ronan Visitor Center.

The decorated hay bales will remain up through the first week of October.

Results

Dutch Oven Cook-Off

Best Main Dish — Dennis LaBonty

Best Bread — Anza LaBonty

Best Dessert — Larry Hall Family

Best Presentation — Ronan Valley Bank

Hay Bale Decorating

First place — The People’s Center

Second place — CSKT Forestry

Third place — Westland Seed

Scarecrow Contest

First place — Holly Lockwood

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