Wheat Ridge Grange Heats Up with Annual Chili Cook-Off

WINNERS OF THE ANNUAL CHILI COOK OFF HOSTED BY THE WHEAT RIDGE GRANGE FROM left to right: Jenny Snell - first place, Kathy Zook - second place, and Elisa Lovato-Smith, third place. PHOTO: BECKY OLSTAD

Amidst the savory aromas and steadfast crockpots, fourteen contestants showcased their culinary skills at the Wheat Ridge Grange’s annual chili cook-off on Thursday, Jan. 18. More than 50 attendees escaped the dropping temperatures outside to taste, evaluate and vote for their favorite dish. 

First-time entrant and Wheat Ridge City Council member Jenny Snell captured the room’s taste buds with her spicy, three-meat chili featuring bison, pork sausage and home-smoked brisket topped with jalapenos and a bite of cornbread. “I should have had a roll of Tums as well,” Snell joked. Despite the threat of indigestion, Snell’s chili emerged as the top favorite, earning her the first-place title.

The event, which was open to the public and free with a suggested donation, raised more than $600 for Feed the Future, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing weekend nutrition for school children facing food insecurity. 

“The whole purpose of the Grange is to serve the community and to provide a place that’s welcoming for families to come and have fun,” said event organizer Nancy Breton. 

This sense of community resonated with 40-year-old competitor Max Harper who recently joined the Grange after relocating to Wheat Ridge. He fondly recalls the role the local Grange played in his childhood growing up in western Colorado. 

“We need to embrace places like this and reinvest in them because they’re hard to create and easy to lose,” Harper said.

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