The Public Safety Chili Cook-Off attracted about 775 people on Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

By the end of the afternoon, I’d finally had my fill of chili. But it was a fun journey.

The varieties of flavors — some good, and to be honest, some not so good — were available for tasting over a four-hour stretch on Sunday afternoon at the rodeo grounds. At last, the Public Safety Chili Cook-Off had returned after two years of getting sidelined by the pandemic.

It’s true — this has always been one of my favorite events.

Besides the chili tasting, having a chance to chat with friends and others that I’ve come to know through my job is just a lot of fun. Since it’s the Public Safety Chili Cook-Off, obviously there were a great number of law-enforcement individuals on hand. When we cross paths doing our jobs, the things we talk about are often unpleasant. But at the chili cook-off, we can all just be ourselves and enjoy the atmosphere.

The two organizations that host the chili cook-off are the Philomath Police Foundation and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office Foundation. And there seemed to be a good amount of jawing going on between PPD Chief Ken Rueben and BCSO Sheriff Jef Van Arsdale over who had the better chili.

I tried them both. Up front, I’ll admit that I’ve been tasting PPD’s chili for years at this event and to my knowledge, they’re authentic Texas no-bean recipe is the same. So I went in knowing that I was going to like theirs. But I’ll say, the BCSO Management Team’s chili with Van Arsdale and team captain Don Rogers was pretty darn good, too (and they invested a little more in the ingredients with their choice of meat).

Public Safety Chili Cook-Off 2022. The OSU Department of Public Safety’s “The Spicy Beavers” team. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

There were several others that I tried that were also very good. I had a few Moscow Mules to further the tasting experience and I didn’t write down tasting notes, but there were some good ones. There was only one chili that I couldn’t finish — my taste buds rejected the odd array of ingredients that were in my little cup.

Although 22 teams had appeared on the original list and that’s what I had reported in my preview story, two of those had to back out to leave the official contestant count at 20.

From the ticket sales, Rueben said the attendance figure appears to be coming in at around 750 people.

“That breaks the record from 2019 by over a hundred, so we’re really happy about that,” Rueben said. “We definitely broke the record in raffle dollars.”

The various raffles that were going on as part of the fundraiser brought in about $3,100. Rueben said the raffles typically bring in around $1,800. The Philomath Police Department alone sold $1,487 in raffle tickets.

Rueben didn’t have a handle yet on the overall proceeds but the numbers are going to end up looking pretty good. For example, part of the equation is how much money will go into the pot from the alcohol and beer sales (after expenses are met, those businesses donate the profit).

Public Safety Chili Cook-Off 2022. La Rockita’s “El Chile” team. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The winners:
• Local Businesses — Philomath Frolic & Rodeo’s Roughstock’s Revenge.
• Law Enforcement Agencies — Philomath Police Department’s “5-0” Championship Chili.
• First Responders — Samaritan Health Services, GSR EM Department’s The I.V. Leaguers.
• Restaurants — La Rockita’s El Chile.
• People’s Choice Award — La Rockita’s El Chile.

Dawson Officer, the 4 Spirits Distillery owner, seemed to be very excited about the chili cook-off’s popularity and how many people came out for it. The primary recipient of this year’s event was 4 Spirits, which has a scholarship fund that helps veterans further their education.

A smaller percentage of the proceeds is split between the two hosting foundations — Philomath Police and Benton County Sheriff’s. The latter foundation distributes money to the BCSO Mounted Posse program.

By the way, the music was very good also with Jayden Noble and Scruggs and the Steelbenders. Just a great addition to the atmosphere.

Public Safety Chili Cook-Off 2022. Jayden Noble performs. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

One other note — the National Anthem performance by Emma Nichols was one of the most moving renditions you’ll ever experience. It was perfect considering the chili cook-off was occurring on 9/11.

“It was like tear-jerking, it was amazing,” Rueben said. “I had a lot of people come up after and ask me, ‘where did you find her?’”

Folks who go to Corvallis Knights games may have heard her sing at that venue. For the chili cook-off, she stuck around and was one of the judges.

“Overall, we were thrilled,” Rueben said of this year’s event. “The people that were in there seemed like they were having a great time.”

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.