October 28th, 2009 Categories: Del Ray
Let me tell you right off the bat that this is a feel good kind of story. The kind of story that makes you think about being kinder, a bit more patient, and perhaps seeing your neighbors in a whole new light. This is how the 2009 Del Ray Chili Cook Off brought smiles to a very special group of Alexandria residents.
Our block in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood hosts a chili “cook off” every year. It is very informal, open to all and operates primarily by word of mouth. Some years it’s a grand, busting at the seams affair, other times, it’s small and just an excuse to get together.
But let me have neighbor and uber chili organizer, Laura Fries tell you more:
“Yesterday was the Chili Cook-Off. Yes, the day with the driving rain and wind coming down hardest just when the cook-off was supposed to start. The host families were talking of canceling – we had given it a good shot but the weather, for a second weekend in a row, wasn’t cooperating.
The we looked out into the yard and there, huddled under the tent, were at least half a dozen residents of the group home from the next block. They had made a pot of chili. They weren’t leaving. Some had walkers, others were in wheelchairs and, despite trying to stay under the tent, they were getting soaked.
It was clear the show had to go on. We put on rain coats and boots, grabbed some umbrellas and brought out our pot of chili. We figured that even if there were just two or three entries to taste, it would make the group home people happy. Then something really amazing happened.
People started showing up. Lots of them. They came with different umbrellas, pots of chili and corn bread, cakes and pies. People went from tent to tent tasting eight different kinds of chili - two vegetarian and one with duck and rabbit! Nobody seemed to care about the rain and a few neighbors new to the experience couldn’t stop raving.
There was something happening here. As he does every year, the Sheriff of Alexandria, Dana Lawhorne, came by to count the ballots. (Yes, we have official ballots and everything.) It had stopped raining by then and we lit a fire and sat around on hay bales waiting for the announcement, the moment of truth had come.
Turns out, the Wicked Wizards, the group home contestants who ran their wheelchairs through the mud and hung out all day in the rain, won first prize for their pot of chili. I cannot adequately express their joy.
The supervisor of the group home accepted the homemade award on their behalf and it almost brought the whole crowd to tears. He talked about how people with physical and mental challenges always feel on the outside of everything and that today they were winners and a true part of the neighborhood. It was one of the best cook off’s ever.”
And that my friends, is how the 2009 Del Ray Chili Cook Off brought smiles to a very special group of Alexandria residents.