Mary White scoops a cup of chili onto her plate Sunday at the North Routt Chili Cook Off at Steamboat Lake Outfitters.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Mary White scoops a cup of chili onto her plate Sunday at the North Routt Chili Cook Off at Steamboat Lake Outfitters.

Raper family wins two 1st-place awards in annual North Routt Chili Cook Off

Charter school fundraiser drew more than 300 people to Steamboat Lake Outfitters

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Cook-off winners

■ Red chili

First: Todd Raper, “Deep Creek Chili”

Second: BJ Vale

Third: Robin Washburn

■ Green chili

First: George Trujillo, “Flat Tops Green Chili”

Second: Brenda Knaus

Third: Jody Carlson

■ Other

First: Aden Knaus, Swedish meatballs

Second: Lori Raper

Third: Chris King

■ Dessert

First: Lori Raper, “Refrigerator Delicious Butterscotch Pie”

Second: John Wilkinson

Third: Dan Bubenheim

— North Routt County residents might want to start inviting themselves over for dinner at the Rapers’ residence in the Deep Creek area.

Todd and Lori Raper accounted for three awards Sunday at the ninth annual North Routt Chili Cook Off, which drew more than 300 people to sunny festivities at Steamboat Lake Outfitters.

Cars lined the side of Routt County Road 129 in both directions and crowds overflowed the building, indicating a strong turnout and likely strong fundraising at the benefit for the new North Routt Charter School and Community Center, and the North Routt Preschool, in Clark.

Event organizer and awards emcee Amber Blazek said there was a total of 44 entries in four categories: green chili, red chili, other and dessert.

Todd Raper took first place in the red chili category for his “Deep Creek Chili” — “I should’ve called it ‘Up Deep Creek,’” he noted — that included pork, beef, onions, garlic and agave wheat beer.

“That might have turned it over” into a winner, Raper said about the beer’s affect on his chili batch. “Something was just right in it.”

Lori Raper won the cook-off’s dessert category for the second year in a row, following up last year’s winning peach crisp with her “Refrigerator Delicious Butterscotch Pie.” Lori also took second place this year in the “other” category, for her tasty broccoli and rice casserole.

“They’re old family recipes,” she said about the creations.

There was no surprise in the green chili category Sunday, as Yampa resident George Trujillo continued his dominance of the regional chili scene with a fifth North Routt victory.

His “Flat Tops Green Chili” earned him another marker on the silver bowl that goes to the category’s winner each year and is returned annually, so a new name can be added.

The “traveling bowl” bears Trujillo’s name on markers for 2005, ’06, ’09, ’10 and now, for 2011.

“It doesn’t matter who judges it or how we judge it,” Blazek said about Trujillo’s work. “The man just wins.”

Trujillo also received an “extraordinary contributor” award, in the shape of a kettle, for his accomplished history at the cook-off.

He declined to divulge any secrets — not even a little hint for aspiring chefs — but said he served six gallons of Flat Tops chili, “with that sweet, smoky flavor,” at Sunday’s event.

Trujillo’s green chili prowess is such that Brenda Knaus, whose “The Secret is Sage” entry came in second in the category, waved her ribbon in the air like a cherished prize.

“For me to come in second, I feel like I won,” she said exuberantly.

The prize also gave Brenda some bragging rights with her husband, cook-off organizer and hard-working charter school fundraiser Erick Knaus.

“We do have a little competition, Erick and I,” Brenda said with a smile. “And I’m up now.”

But up on both his parents is 10-year-old Aden Knaus, a charter school fourth-grader who won the cook-off’s “other” category for the second year in a row with his increasingly famous Swedish meatballs.

Brenda said there’s minimal parental assistance in Aden’s cooking.

“It’s all him,” she said. “(Sunday), in the kitchen, he invited his friends over and they all watched him make those meatballs.”

Flood talk

Rapidly approaching flood danger was a hot topic of conversation around cook-off tables, as people discussed the snow that still thickly covers the ground north of Willow Creek Pass and is melting into already-overflowing North Routt creeks.

“I think it’s going to be epic, I really do,” C.R. 56 resident Andy Dygert said of a high-water season that, he added, could get very serious very soon.

“June 1, give or take a few days,” Dygert speculated.

But talk of berms and sandbags was only a backdrop to an afternoon primarily marked by friends and families socializing, eating and relaxing in the sun.

Clark resident Chad Whitmore said the event exemplified the community his family has called home for about two years.

“That’s what I like about it up here, up north,” he said. “When they have an event, everybody comes out for it.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

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