POLSON— For the eighth year in a row, the Polson Rotary Chili Cook-off for youth attracted chili connoisseurs and inventive chefs alike. As 15 competitive groups in Polson set their chili pots to simmer, they were reminded of why their participation at the event was important.
“The Rotary motto is ‘service above self,’” said Polson Rotary president, Keith Urbach. “That’s why we hold this event, to serve Polson’s youth.”
Since the event’s conception, the Rotary club has chosen one Polson youth organization a year to donate its cook-off profit to. In the past five years alone, it has raised about $100,000 cumulatively for its chosen youth organizations. This year, Rotary’s goal was to raise $15,000 to renovate the fields for Polson High School’s softball team.
“Youth organizations can apply to receive our profits in March. Then a nominating committee narrows down our choices. We like to find a group that will help participate at the event and will use our donation to make it more successful,” commented Urbach.
The softball team did well to highlight both of those qualities; their need for newly renovated softball fields was emphasized by their recent successes in state tournaments, and a number of softball players were at the event, offering the opportunity to practice pitching or batting.
“The softball boosters did an outstanding job in supporting their cause, and selling raffle tickets and everything. It really is a partnership between rotary and the boosters and they were a pleasure to work with.”
The event itself has become a way to display community businesses and organizations. Each year the Polson High School cheerleaders have volunteered to supply free face painting for children at the event, Mega-Karma, the local band featuring Megan Gran and Karla Gallatin, have volunteered to provide entertainment, and a growing number of local businesses engage in the competition.
This year’s “best chili” winner was the Polson Fire Department, and they were awarded $200. Second place was Black Mountain Software, and third place was the United Methodist Church; they were awarded $100 and $50, respectively.
The people’s choice winner for best decorations was Black Mountain Software. The people’s choice best chili winners were the Youth Softball Boosters, followed by the Fire Department and First Interstate Bank.
This year, a competition was also instituted between the three local banks--First Interstate, Glacier and Community--who traditionally take part in the cook-off. First Interstate Banks rubbed out its colleagues this year.
The total amount of funds raised for the softball team has not been calculated yet, but the Rotary club will have a ceremony later in September to officially give the money to the softball team.
“I would definitely consider this year a success,” said Urbach. “We had more teams than ever enter the competition this year, and we had good participation from the softball team.”