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A chili challenge for a cause

The first annual chili cook-off, to be held at Big Al’s Firehouse Grill this Saturday, will raise money for the Wildland Firefighters Foundation

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Big Al’s Firehouse Grill owner Al Edwards (left) and cook Paul Glavanits will host the First Annual Chili Challenge this weekend. Proceeds from the event will go to the families of fallen wildland firefighters.

Chili cooks and chili lovers alike can get their fix this Saturday while supporting a noble profession in the process.
   The First Annual Chili Challenge will be held at Big Al’s Firehouse Grill, in Powell Butte.
   All proceeds from the event will go to support the Wildland Firefighters Foundation, whose main focus is to help families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and to assist injured firefighters and their families.
   “There are 25 that died last year,” said Al Edwards, event organizer and owner of the Firehouse Grill, “and just within the last week, there have been three that were killed.”
   The money raised by the Chili Challenge will go directly to the families of the fallen wildland firefighters.
   For Edwards, a chili cook-off seemed like the best way to draw a crowd and raise funds.
   “Everybody loves chili,” he said. “It’s like a melting pot — everybody has their own recipe, and chili is never consistent. That’s what brings out the spark in people.”
   The Chili Challenge welcomes people to enter their concoction with a chance to win prizes and trophies. Edwards has invited all the nearby fire departments to enter a chili recipe in the contest, and he hopes to entice hot shot crews and smoke jumpers to participate as well.
   Those not entering the contest can try out the recipes while serving as chili judges. Visitors can purchase five sample cups for five dollars and vote for their favorite.
   While the event will center on the chili cook-off, it will include a variety of other attractions on the periphery. Open barbecues will keep visitors fed while beer is served to help wash it down. Musicians will take the stage throughout the Chili challenge and children can enjoy a pony ride. The event will even include a masseuse.
   “We want to be part of the community and get people together,” Edwards said.
   For people interested in entering, the chili can be made either ahead of time or on site, and contestants must make at least one gallon. They must bring devices to keep the chili hot, and provide serving spoons, tables, and shelter if desired.
   Awards will be announced in the evening, with prizes given down to fifth place.
   Edwards may not know exactly what to expect with the first Chili Challenge outing, but he has high expectation and intends to keep the event going in subsequent years.
   “There’s free music, there’s beer, there’s barbecue, and chili,” he said. “I mean, you can’t ask for anything better than that.”