Around 200 visitors attended the annual Panaca Volunteer Fire Department’s chili cook off this past Saturday, Oct. 19. The volunteers raised more than $3,000 in ticket sales, and much more for the auction held afterward for Ken Hafen and his battle with Leukemia.
Starting at Noon, attendants arrived for chili as crock-pot after crock-pot was presented for the hungry guests. An ongoing chili tradition, the top three chilis from the participating fire departments are selected by the judge panel. The first place winner receives the travelling plaque award with their name for the next year. This year’s winner was Amanda Johnson from the Panaca Fire Department.
Johnson is now in her first year with the Panaca Volunteer Fire Department.
Second place went to the Hamblin Valley Fire District, represented by Jack Horner of Caliente.
Third place went to Miles Umina, also from the Panaca Volunteer Fire Department.
The proceeds from the cook off are going towards a scholarship fund the fire department has started. “It was a huge success for our first time raising money for a scholarship,” said Hope Johnson, one of the volunteer firefighters. “The support for the chili cook off this year was incredible.”
“Education is expensive,” said Nate Reeve, Panaca volunteer fire fighter. “Most college students drop out within the first two years with a lot of debt when they start working. Anything we can do to help that, I’m all for it.”
Visitors came from local areas such as Caliente and Pioche, but also from St. George, Utah, to attend the event.
Sheriff Kerry Lee, Panaca Fire Chief, said that the cook off was also a good way to “drum up interest in the volunteer fire department,” which currently has about 20 volunteers on staff. “We’d like to maintain 25, but more volunteering is suffering all over,” Lee said.
The volunteers did some work this year to help promote the cook off, including riding around in their fire trucks over the course of three nights. The trucks and crews drove around with the truck lights on and sirens howling, as volunteers went door to door raising money.
Also a longstanding tradition is the hot chili eat off, where contestants try to eat a bowl of fire-hot chili concocted by resident Marc Olson, in the fastest time to receive the winnings. Marc Olson himself contributed $60 for the fastest eater. Six participants tried to claim the winnings, but it was Adam Brose of Panaca that rose to the occasion, finishing his bowl in 45 seconds.
There were many items donated this year from a list of local merchants, as well as some Utah supporters.
The volunteers deserve a lot of credit for their efforts and time in putting on this event: Fire Chief Sheriff Lee, Assistant Fire Chief Deputy Miles Umina, Treasurer Mike Anderson, Battalion Chief Harry Birkmier, Engine 64 Captain Beau Carlson and Engine 62 Lt. Kirt Johnson, along with the many volunteers, help to make the event possible.