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Festival for Youth serves up chili and fun

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POLSON — When the whistle blew at 8 a.m. on Aug. 24, 15 groups of chefs began chopping, sautéing and stirring so their chili would be ready for judging and sampling at 11 a.m. 

The cooks were all competing in the Rotary Festival for Youth’s chili cook-off at Riverside Park.  

Julie, Sophia and Matt Sisler, John Fairchild and Kraig Ruble all worked preparing the Polson Volunteer Fire Department’s “White Bean Back Draft” chili. They even hauled in a gas barbecue to grill the chicken since Julie said the chili is just not the same if the chicken isn’t grilled. A gas grill was necessary because of Phase 1 fire restrictions, as Fairchild reminded Julie when she considered a briquette barbecue. The fire department’s entry was simmering around 9 a.m. When judging time rolled around, they served the soup with tortilla or corn chips and a healthy spoonful of homemade salsa, added by Carol Swope.

Providence St. Joseph Medical Center’s entry was a “Texas-style chili” with no beans, according to chef Stephanie Blank, kitchen manager at the hospital. Blank and her crew served the spicy soup with a choice of goat cheese or shredded cheddar cheese.

When hungry chili tasters arrived, adults could purchase tasting kits and dip their spoons into any of the chilis while the younger crowd splashed on the water slide or got their face painted by the Polson High School cheerleaders. “Mega Karma” entertained as guests wandered from tent to tent.

Each year Rotary chooses a youth organization to support and donates approximately $15,000 to that organization. Rotary members raise money by selling raffle tickets, and the drawings are held at the Festival for Youth.  This year’s beneficiary was the Polson Softball Association Boosters, and the funds will be used for lights, a new drainage system and a parking lot at the softball complex, according to Rotary chair Jared Shew. 

Shew said credit should go to Tom Fieber, who led the softball group, and encouraged the softball girls to sell tickets for the Rotary raffles.

Attendance at the event was up this year, too, so Shew was pleased. 

Each tasting kit came with a ballot, so chili eaters could vote for people’s choice for best decoration and best chili. 

Black Mountain Software won the people’s choice decoration trophy. 

People’s choice chili winners were:

1. Youth Softball Boosters

2. Polson Volunteer Fire Department

3. First Interstate Bank

People’s choice for chili, banks category, was:

First Interstate Bank.

A judging panel comprising community members also made their selections.

Community judges chose the following winners:

1. Polson Volunteer Fire Dept.

2. Black Mountain Software

3. United Methodist Church

Raffle winners were:

• $1,000 gas - Ken Druyvestein

• $1,000 cash - Marie and Michael Auten

• $1,000 groceries - Joe Platko

• $1,000 worth of cut and wrapped beef - Gerry Newgard

• Two golf passes for Polson Bay Golf Course - John Malletta

• “A little over” 100 bottles of wine - G. Braal

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