Chili Cook-Off winners to return


All five winners of the 8th Annual Simon Kenton Chili Cook-off will return to compete in this years’ cook-off on September 26 in downtown Urbana. In recent interviews the contestants shared their backgrounds and why they compete.

First-place winner “Kings of Chicago” – comprised of Stacey Pond Koons, Lige Gibson, Renee Scheuermann and Mike Amstutz – are all Champaign County natives and after attending the festival for years, decided to compete in 2014. They hold a “pre-chili cook off” among friends prior to the event. Eight chili recipes are tested and the friends select the best – this recipe is used in the competition and does contain a “secret ingredient.” A favorite movie of the group, “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off,” was the inspiration for the team name. “It was an honor to be selected to win from such an outstanding field of contenders last year,” Stacey said. “For us, it is as much about the camaraderie as the competition. We just enjoy doing things together!”

Second-place winner “Saturn Chili” was a husband and wife team, Joey and Nancy Armstrong from nearby Piqua. They have competed in smaller festivals in Ohio and surrounding states and discovered the Simon Kenton Chili Cook-off through the web site.

Their recipe is a combination of her favorite chili recipe and his favorite chili recipe.

They each like their own chili best – they each cook a pot and then combine them for the judging. The prize monies are attractive, but they have fun just participating and enjoying the festival.

Third-place winners “Ring of Fire” are Marysville natives and learned of the festival through a friend who had competed previously. It sounded like a lot of fun, so Theresa and Chad Fluharty and Jacqueline and Casey Wuethrich decided to jump right in. They had never entered a cook-off, but, figured they could “wing it.” They were excited to win and “We are bringing it back,” Theresa said.

“Big D’s Chili” won fourth place in 2014 and had placed third in previous years. David and Melissa Kelly, daughter Hilliary and friends Tim and Joe Ellen Ridder form the winning team. The Kellys from South Vienna found the event on the internet years ago and decided to give it a try. David loves to cook and cooks chili at work and for the large annual Fall Camp Out held at Brown Reservoir. He has “tweaked” his recipe through the years, but, does not feel there is anything unusual about it. David finds the festival to be a great community event and he loves to hang out and visit with the folks.

Fifth-place winner, “Ton 80m Chili” led by Scott Svancara is not a newcomer to competition. He has participated in numerous chili cook-off events in surrounding states, including the most recent, “Fire on the Mountain” at the Nemicolin Resort in Pennsylvania. Friends living in Urbana encouraged him to join the Urbana cook-off and he has participated for three years, winning first, second and fourth places. He has also won first and second place for the “Best Booth” competition. He has a team of family and friends, but, he does most of the cooking. Asked if he changes the recipe, he said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He has participated in ICS sanctioned events, but finds the prize monies comparable in all the contests. He finds the Urbana festival to be more fun than any other he attends and looks forward to a good crowd and great fun in 2015.

Sign ups are being accepted until Sept. 16, 2015. Applications are available on line at or by contacting Beth Adair, 614-440-7560.

By Sandy Gonzalez

Sandy Gonzalez is an organizer of the Simon Kenton Chili Cook-Off.

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