Outside Looking In
One of my favorite things to cover during Boxelder Bug Days for the past eight years is the 23rd annual Johnny Tillemans Memorial Chili Cook-off.
It's an enjoyable contest that everyone flocks to for samples of various chili and a chance to vote for their favorite recipe.
Typically, Tillemans' four daughters, Carey Doyscher, Lu Hinz, Deb Gilbertson and Sandy Doyscher, compete in the cook-off, along with other family members. One participant this year, Jeff Lettau of Taunton, was the lone non-family member among the seven chefs. This was his second year competing, although the first time came in 2019 during a persistent rain that kept tasters at bay.
One of the chili chefs wanted me to taste everyone's chili and bought sample cups for me. Although the samples come in small bathroom Dixie cups, I soon realized they hold much more chili than you think. Especially when you eat seven samples on top of burger and a corn dog.
I actually did not taste a bad chili even though each one was vastly different from the other. Each one had different vegetables likes onions and peppers, and some had different meat such as hamburger, sausage or turkey.
While Jeremy Friedrichs of Glenwood, Tillemans' great nephew, had claimed the "Taster's Choice" in both 2018 and 2019 (there was no event last year due to the pandemic), this year the top prize went to Carey Doyscher, who has now won the People's Choice portion of this event four times.
While Carey and her husband, Pete, cook together on the same table year after year, they each have taken home several awards. Together, they earned a prize for Best Booth this year.
While Pete uses the same meat ingredients each year (smoked turkey), Carey has never used the same meat twice, instead opting for something different each year. She even used snapping turtle as her meat ingredient one year. This year, she chose elk as her meat choice.
Pete Doyscher earned second place and Friedrichs was third in this year's People's Choice award. For ending Friedrichs' two-year win streak, Carey takes home the coveted traveling trophy constructed by Chris Swedzinski.
There was no judge's winner named this year.
The Chili Cook-off is sponsored by Prairie Home Hospice and Community Care with all proceeds going to that worthy cause.
I took my seven Dixie cups and got a sample from each of the pots of chili. As each spoonful and cupful went down, my mouth and tongue began to heat up. I've never been one to eat a lot of spicy food and by the time I emptied the last cup of chili, I was ready to head west across Veterans Park to the fire hall.
There were crackers and cheese and sour cream to accompany the chili, but I opted for the "straight shots".
Johnny Tillemans was a popular owner of the Silver Dollar Bar in Ghent who passed away in 2014. His children, grandchildren and other family members have kept his legacy alive with this annual cook-off. He would be proud of them all.
The family is already planning to expand the chili cook-off to include even more family members next year.
The more, the merrier. Unless you are including seven cups of chili.
Thanks to sponsors
The Mascot would like to thank those who sponsored our Fall Sports Special Section and also our Boxelder Bug Days section this year. We could not bring readers these valuable sections without your help.