Soda Creek Elementary School student Daniel Kempers savors a bite of Di's Dynamite, the winner of the green chili category at the 12th annual North Routt Chili Cookoff on Sunday.

Photo by Ben Ingersoll

Soda Creek Elementary School student Daniel Kempers savors a bite of Di's Dynamite, the winner of the green chili category at the 12th annual North Routt Chili Cookoff on Sunday.

Community makes 12th annual North Routt Chili Cookoff a success

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— Come for the chili, stay to give to the schools.

It’s a simple formula, really. But it’s one that attracts hordes of Routt County residents near and far to Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse once each year, where the Crock-Pots are hot, the drinks are cold and the attendees are there for a common purpose.

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Derek Leidigh scoops a ladle of Bison Bacon Chipotle Chili at Sunday's North Routt Chili Cookoff at Hahn's Peak Roadhouse.

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North Routt Community Charter School kindergartner Zeylia Jacobi samples some chili with Brooke Daniel at the 12th annual North Routt Chili Cookoff on Sunday.

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Jodi Meccini, of Steamboat Springs, grabs a ladle full of Di's Dynamite green chili Sunday at the 12th annual North Routt Chili Cookoff at Hahn's Peak Roadhouse.

Dozens of community members packed the restaurant's tight confines and stuffed their stomachs with various chili, hors d'oeuvres and dessert recipes, all vying for 12th annual North Routt Chili Cookoff trophies.

But the real reward goes to Clark preschoolers and students at the North Routt Community Charter School, the beneficiary of all proceeds from Sunday’s chili cravers for 12 years running.

From musical entertainment provided by the band 3 Wire down to the defending green chili champion, the shoulder-to-shoulder packed Roadhouse showed just how much investment the community pours into Clark education.

“Luckily, it’s been going on for many years, and people look forward to this,” cookoff organizer Kerri Ann Crocker said. “It’s an opportunity for people outside the school and community to get involved. To me, that’s what is unique about this.”

And a trip through the dozens of slow cookers containing chili reveals that the products’ names were equally unique.

There was Di’s Dynamite, a green chili blend that garnered the most votes as Diane Townes took home the category’s top prize. Townes’ runners-up boasted catchy nicknames, as well, such as Joe Muhlbauer’s Ninja Chow or Jerry Moberly’s Awesome Green.

“I love this event, even more than the downtown Steamboat challenge,” Townes said, noting a family friend has children at NRCCS and she participates to give back to the school.

In the red chili category, Heather Kiniston’s shredded beef recipe was top choice among eaters, followed by Dan Bubenheim’s White Tail Red and Sharon Stone’s Rich Red.

Even the students at North Routt schools got in on the action, such as NRCCS’ Camryn Dines, who baked the top dessert with her Double Chocolate Brownies.

Lisa Larkin’s Spring Berry Trifle took second in the dessert category, followed by NRCCS student McKinley Muhlbauer’s Brownie Surprise. In the “other" category, consisting of various hors d'oeuvres and appetizers, Stone’s Stuffed Jalapenos were the top choice. Dave Mortlock’s Creamy Lemon Chicken was the runner-up.

Preparation began at 10 a.m., three hours before cookoff goers took their first bite. It’s an event, volunteer Amber Blazek said, that brings the already tight-knit North Routt community together, where cookoff success hinges as much on Travis Bedell manning the electricity for the slow cookers as it does on what’s brewing inside.

“The chili and the community,” Blazek said. “This community is the most outstanding group of people I’ve seen in my life.”

The Roadhouse venue — which has been the host for three years running now — was donated, just like the previous location at Glen Eden Restaurant in Clark. All food is donated, as well, including the complimentary cornbread from Hahn’s Peak Cafe, just a mile up the road from the Roadhouse.

“It’s one of those fundraisers where everyone knows their part,” Blazek said. “There isn’t a ton of effort put in anymore. It really is a community event.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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