The Benton County Sheriff’s Office will have six teams competing at this year Public Safety Chili Cook-off. In all, there will be 10 law-enforcement teams. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

An event that has evolved into a must activity each September for a lot of folks in Philomath and the surrounding communities, the latest edition of the Public Safety Chili Cook-off will take over the rodeo grounds this coming Sunday.

At last year’s event, the number of tasters strolling around the Yew Wood Corral got up into the neighborhood of 800 people and participating teams were also hitting record numbers. In short, the chili cook-off is more popular than it’s ever been.

“The day after it’s over, people are talking about the next year,” Philomath police chief and event organizer Ken Rueben said. “Every year it gets a little bit bigger and our job as organizers — us and the sheriff’s foundation — is we want to make it fun for the participants because they’re spending money and time to come out and cook chili and do all the work.

“At the end of the day, everybody has a blast,” he added. “And I know that people that come to this thing every year have a great time.”

The Yew Wood Corral’s gates at the rodeo grounds will open at 2 p.m. Sunday with the event running until 6 p.m. Admission is $10 (age 12 and older) and $5 (under age 12). Tickets can be purchased in advance online.

In addition to chili, there will be beer, wine and spirits for sale on site. Block 15 will have beer and wine, and 4 Spirits Distillery will have mixed drinks.

The chili cook-off’s charity gun raffle has become a tradition for Philomath Police. This year, a 

Chili cook-off’s poster features artistic talents of PHS students

Natalie Dunn came up with eye-catching images. Alyssa Kvidt discovered the perfect font. Together, their visuals are featured in this year’s promotional poster for the Public Safety Chili Cook-off, which is scheduled for Sept. 10 at the rodeo grounds. Students in Nicole Stueve’s desktop publishing class at Philomath High School worked on the project. Philomath…

Ruger Precision 6.5 Creedmoor target rifle donated by Coastal Farms and Ranch with a value of $1,599 will be given away to the winning ticket holder. Tickets are available now at the Philomath Police Department or can be purchased on the day of the event at a raffle booth that will be set up.

Other items will be raffled as well, including custom-made knives and various types of baked goods. One team will even raffle off jalapeno poppers.

The event should receive more attention outside of the immediate area with Albany-based KRKT Radio planning to do a live remote. Rueben said Scott Schuler and Angie Foster, hosts of “Cricket Country in the Morning with Scott and Angie” will be on site.

A percentage of the proceeds will be donated for the second straight year to the 4 Spirits Foundation, which provides scholarships for veterans who want to take classes at Western Oregon University. 

“In years’ past, we’ve given money directly to ABC House (children’s advocacy center),” Rueben said. “Every year, we re-evaluate who the charity will be with the sheriff’s foundation — it’s a joint decision.”

A smaller percentage of funds will be split up between the Benton County Sheriff’s Foundation and Philomath Police Foundation. The sheriff’s foundation routinely donates funds to help support the Benton County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse. The Philomath Police Foundation in past years has used some of the money to go toward its canine program.

Rueben loves the camaraderie of making chili with his own team but also the interactions with other participants.

“It’s a whole day and I laugh about it but it’s hard work,” Rueben said. “I mean, making 10 gallons of chili and serving 700 or 800 people — by the end of the day, you’re exhausted.”

Rueben said this year’s event will feature a record 27 teams competing for top tasting honors and with those numbers, an extra category was added. The list includes 10 law-enforcement teams, six alone from the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

Will there ever be a cap on the number of teams allowed to participate?

“I think we can shoehorn in 30,” Rueben said about the available space at the Frolic venue. “With the size of the facility, it’ll be very interesting with 27 teams to see where we sit. I think we’re going to evaluate after because we had a couple more people that wanted to join so we could’ve had 29 or 30 teams this year.”

As for the folks who turn out to sample chili, the numbers have steadily increased.

“If every team cooks 10 gallons of chili, you’re talking 270 gallons of chili being served in one day and we want to see how that works this year,” Rueben said. “Obviously, we’re happy that it’s grown … it just gets to the point where how many people are going to show up and if it’s worth getting bigger.”

In other words, there could be a lot of leftover chili with that many teams.

Here’s a rundown of the teams and how they’ve been placed in five categories:

• Police Departments — Albany Police, Corvallis Police, OSU Police, Philomath Police.

• Sheriff’s Office — BCSO Jail, BCSO Management, BCSO Parole and Probation, BCSO Patrol No. 1, BCSO Patrol No. 2, BCSO Reserves.

• First Responders and Support — Active 911, Benton County CERT, Benton County Human Services/Welfare, Corvallis 911 Dispatch, Good Samaritan ER, Philomath Fire and Rescue.

• Restaurants — Clodfelters, La Rockita, Nick’s: Soul Food, Old World Deli, Philomath Lions Club.

• Local Businesses — Alyria Networks, Benton County Schools Credit Union, Citizens Bank, Oregon State Credit Union, Philomath Frolic and Rodeo, Philomath Rental.

Chili tasters can choose their favorites for the people’s choice award through an online voting site that will be set up and accessible through smartphones (a QR code will be activated to make it easier to find it). Rueben said Alyrica stepped up this year to provide enhanced internet to improve wifi capabilities. Slow internet was an issue at last year’s event.

“That should make a huge difference in our online voting this year,” Rueben said. “We’re going to use SurveyMonkey for our voting and hopefully it’ll go smoother than last year.”

A panel of judges will taste all entries to determine winners in other categories.

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.