Saturday night's Pete Soto Chili Cook-Off at the Knights of Columbus was a carnivore's delight.
And a great fundraising kick-off for the Lorain County Blue Foundation. Chris Barton, an Avon police officer who created the foundation as well as organized the cook-off, said Saturday that more than $10,000 had been raised.
More than 550 people showed up for the event, which had nine area law enforcement agencies and the Warthogs Motorcycle Club competing for top honors in making chili.
For the second year in a row, Avon Police Department won first prize.
Last year, the event was a fundraiser for Soto, who had been critically injured in a motorcycle crash while on duty in 2010. This year, Soto is glad to be a part of helping the new Lorain County Blue Foundation.
"It's awesome that we're doing this," he said. "I remember when I was hurt and Steve Loomis (of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association) came to the hospital and brought my family food, drinks, and blankets because he knew they'd be staying there. When (Elyria police officer) Jim Kerstetter was killed, they were there with a check for his family to help out. Towns like Avon, Avon Lake, even Lorain, our departments are too small to do something like that alone. But we can band together and help families."
Barton said a second fundraiser for the Lorain County Blue Foundation would be held this summer, and would probably be either a steak fry or a clambake.
The chilis were tasty and diverse. Melissa Brown again made her chili for the Lorain Police Department, using top round instead of ground beef. The Warthogs made a chili with corn, three kinds of sausage, hamburger, green and red peppers, jalapenos, stewed tomatoes and a secret seasoning blend.
Avon officers Jeannine Coe and Eric Bergen tweaked their winning recipe from last year, offering a tasty mix of sweet and heat.
Detective Lisa Dietsche of the Elyria Police Department said their chili was simple and good.
"Nothing exotic, just straightforward chili," she said.
Amherst Police Department offered the most unique chili of the evening, a white chicken chili loaded with green chilies. Chief Joseph Kucirek offered sriracha sauce to top the chili.
In addition to chili, beer and soda were served, police-light blue Jell-O shots were sold and volunteers baked hundreds of cupcakes.
The evening also brought out the politicians, including Congressman Dennis Kuchinich, Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo, and several candidates for judge.