The secret ingredient of Prohibition Chili is still closely guarded by Marion Mafia members, but the team of good guys and their recipe took the top prizes on Saturday 36e annual chili championship.
Of the nine contestants, Marion Mafia, cooking while wearing ties, won first place and the People’s Choice and Showmanship awards for the cook-off.
Trinity Ambulance Service took second place with their chili, and Boy Scout Troop 93 earned bragging rights with third place.
The Ford Studios took a different approach to their recipe and went vegetarian. They prepared Chocolate Chilaca Chili and took home the Chili Wimp prize by the end of the evening.
Rachel Gibson, of the Marion studio downtown, said the team’s chili contains “100% cocoa unsweetened baking chocolate and chilacas (a type of green chili).”
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The recipe, she said, is intentionally moderate. “Our Chocolate Chilaca Chili is mild so as not to disguise the subtlety of the chocolate and was served with a squeeze of lime for a balanced taste.”
Gibson noted that she and her husband, Jon Ives, “are not strictly vegetarian, [but] we notice that we eat less meat because of the crazy working hours. Sometimes managing the expiration date of fresh meat and the thawing time of frozen meat is not convenient, so we eat less meat.”
On Sunday the artists were already thinking about the 37e chili boil-off. “We’ve had a blast this year and we’re already planning test drives for a new chili recipe next year. So keep an eye out for FORD Studios in 2023,” she said.
Three bands played during the festival: The Swizzle Sticks, Phantom and The Soul Men.
When all was said and done, the organizers expressed their thanks to all participants, attendees and helped make the event possible.
Many people entering the festivities through the Iron Street Mall entered through an arch covered with yellow balloons. The bright inflatables, which were also on tables, were much more than decorative. They were a signal to those recovering from addiction and those who supported them that there was a safe place nearby.
The (h)Appys team also provided free swag, drinks, snacks and games.
On Facebook, Smyth County Recovery Court shared a message from Crystal Glass expressing the importance. Glass wrote, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for years. A safe space for me to enjoy one of my all-time favorite events in my hometown!! A safe space for those of us in recovery to go for that extra support in situations where we might need each other and still be part of a great time listening to some live music and tasting some of the best chilli in the world!!!!Thank you to ALL who made this possible!!!”
Glass also explained the name: “We … call ourselves The (h)Appys, pronounced The Appys. The (h) is silent until you realize that you can still have fun in recovery and stop being silent and you will be happy!!!!”
Posted the day of the cook-off, she wrote: “Please join us if you are curious about who we are and what we do!! Find the yellow balloons and there we will be.”
The Appalachian Substance Abuse Coalition for Prevention and Treatment, Virginia Department of Health, and Mount Rogers Community Services teamed up to create the safe space, where they received Narcan training and provided information to anyone who asked. Peer support specialists were on hand in case anyone needed their guidance.