An event born out of an accident that resulted in serious injuries to an Avon police officer is growing strong and entering its third year.
Pete Soto, an Avon motorcyle officer was injured on duty in 2010 when a vehicle struck his bike. His fellow officers launched a chili cook off the following year a a fundraiser for him. In 2012, realizing that Lorain County lacked a foundation similar to Cleveland and Columbus, they founded Lorain County Blue to assist families of officers down or critically injured in the line of duty in Lorain County and continued the Pete Soto Chili Cook Off.
The event has grown since its inception and on Feb. 23, from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., the Lorain County Blue Foundation will be hosting the third annual “Pete Soto Chili Cook Off” at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Avon.
This year, 12 agencies from Lorain County and two guest agencies will be serving their homemade chili to more than 600 guests. All of the proceeds will benefit the non-profit Lorain County Blue Foundation.
This year, Cleveland Heights police department and Columbus’ “Get Behind The Badge” foundation will be joining the event.
A growing foundation
Event organizer and Avon Police officer Chris Barton said he would like to see “LoCo Blue” see the success Get Behind the Badge, which was founded in 2001, has had.
“It's what I hope LoCo Blue will evolve into for supporting officers down,” Barton said. “We are glad they are making the trip to support LoCo Blue and look forward to having them as our guests.”
Avon's police department has several ties with the Cleveland Heights police department.
“(Avon officer) Andy Kehl and I spent five years working there before we came to work for Avon,” Barton said. “ We have stayed closed with several officers there and will always remember our friend Jason West, who was killed in the line of duty.”
West was born and raised in Avon.
“They had asked this year if they could join and of course I welcomed them,” Barton said. “Ever since Jason's tragedy, the two departments have continued a very good relationship.”
The first Pete Soto Chili Cook Off had six agencies cooking.
“Last year we had nine agencies, and this year we have grown to 14,” Barton said. “The great thing is, we are including the entire County and their respective agencies. This year, OSP, Oberlin and the Metroparks have joined us.”
A friendly competition has already evolved as well.
“Some of the agencies have already began bragging about taking home first place for the cook off this year,” Barton said. "Eric Bergen from Avon has already assured me that he is tweaking his chili to take home first place again for the third straight year in a row."
Participating agencies include Amherst, Avon, Avon Lake, Elyria, Lorain, North Ridgeville, Oberlin, Sheffield Village and Vermilion police department, the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, Lorain County Metro Parks, OSP Post #47,the Cleveland Heights police department and Columbus’ “Get Behind The Badge.”
Tickets are a $15 donation and include chili, pop, dessert and beer. Tickets are available throughout the County and at the Avon Police Department or by contacting Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Knight of Columbus hall is on Moore Road in Avon.