For this chili cook-off, the legislators are the winners
March 3, 2016
Picture the halls of the Oliver Hill Building on Capitol Square. In front of the lieutenant governor’s office, tables of folks serving samples of chili line both sides of the hall. In the middle, professionally attired men and women line up for their next sample, enjoying perhaps their first taste of moose, boar, bear, venison and other wild game.
Such was the visual on Jan. 21, when over 150 people came to the annual Wild Game Chili Cook-Off, hosted by the Virginia Sportmen’s Foundation. Winners were chosen among the cooks serving samples.
An image of this sort has been the reality for over two decades, when the Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation chair, Sheriff Ken Stolle – then a freshman state senator – hosted the first Wild Game Chili Cook-Off. In 1992, perhaps 10 folks joined for the event, but attendance has grown over the years.
“We lost about 50 folks compared to last year’s number,” explained foundation president Will Payne, since the General Assembly had closed early because of snowstorm Jonas.
“We continue to put on this event because it’s one of the rare times when you can get legislators, government officials, lobbyists and staffers together just for fun,” said Payne. “It’s a no-politics zone and frankly is, for many of the attendees, the only time of the year they get to try wild game.”
Wandering the halls and tasting the wares were numerous dignitaries, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Sen. Tommy Norment, Sen. Dick Saslaw, Del. Chris Stolle, Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, Congressman Rob Wittman, Congressman Dave Brat, Lt. Governor John Hager, Sen. Amanda Chase, Secretary Todd Haymore and many others.
Chili cook-off winners for 2016 were Kevin Carroll, earning first place for his wild boar chili; Melva Jones, earning second place for her moose-laced chili; and Lynda O’Connell, coming in third with veggie chili. The awards for spiciest chili went to Evan Feinman’s wild boar chili and for best presentation to Randy Bush for Fur and Feather, chili loaded with venison, quail, pheasant and wild turkey – aka his “clean out the freezer” chili.
The Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization that promotes Virginia’s outdoor traditions, including hunting, fishing and natural resource conservation. Among its initiatives are the annual Hunter Skills Weekend, organized in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The course is designed to educate the beginning hunter as well as teach experienced hunters who may be interested in new hunting disciplines such as crossbow, archery and muzzleloader.
The Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation supports conservation efforts. According to VirginiaSportsmen.org, its 1,500-acre property in eastern Chesapeake is used to promote natural resource conservation, reinforce Virginia’s hunting and fishing traditions and encourage respect for the environment and for people.
“In the coming months,” the website says, “we intend on acquiring additional properties and begin our plans to expand our existing operation to build wheelchair accessible hunting stands, a lodge and a practice range.”
Recent events sponsored by the Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation include the Wounded Warrior Pheasant Hunt and Family Fishing Rodeo.