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Chili cook-off kicks community outreach up a notch

Posted by: Charlotte Manley Charlotte Manley
on December 10, 2012
NOBODY’S CHILI HERE: Cook-off attendees fought the cool autumn temperature by enjoying 13 varieties of homemade chili

NOBODY’S CHILI HERE: Cook-off attendees fought the cool autumn temperature by enjoying 13 varieties of homemade chili

Jacksonville, Fla., was hotter than usual on Nov. 17 — and it had nothing to do with the weather. That was the day the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce held its 16th Annual Mandarin Chili Cook-Off at Kimco’s Riverplace Shopping Center.

The community outreach event brought together about 1,000 business owners and residents alike to put their homemade chili recipes to the test, enjoy live entertainment, and support local charities. We wanted to highlight it on our blog because we think it’s a good example of a winning event for all of the four major groups involved — the Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville business community, the local non-profit community, and Kimco.

This year’s event was organized by Mark Goldwich, owner of Gold Star Adjusters in our Riverplace Shopping Center and member of the Chamber of Commerce. Contestants had to make four to five gallons of chili to sell at the event. A team of judges were on hand to taste the 13 chili submissions, pick the three best, then award cash prizes. There was also live music from local singer/songwriter Larry Mangum, children’s bounce houses, and a silent auction.

GET IT WHILE IT'S HOT: One of the cook-off contestants ladles out his homemade chili

GET IT WHILE IT’S HOT: One of the cook-off contestants ladles out his homemade chili

The cook-off helps the Chamber of Commerce connect with local business owners, some of whom submitted their chili recipes; others just enjoyed tasting it all. The Chamber of Commerce also uses the event to raise awareness about the benefits the organization provides business owners.

The chili cook-off is a valuable event for the local business community, too. About 15 business owners set up booths throughout the parking lot to promote their products and services to shoppers. Other business owners who came out for the event also had the opportunity to mingle with customers while enjoying homemade chili.

From a community perspective, the chili cook-off helps support several area non-profits. Event proceeds helped The Mandarin Food Bank, Junior Achievement, and The Wounded Warrior Project.

HOT, MEDIUM, OR MILD: Samplers could choose from a variety of toppings to either spice up their chili, or tone it down

HOT, MEDIUM, OR MILD: Samplers could choose from a variety of toppings to either spice up their chili, or tone it down

For Kimco, hosting the cook-off is, naturally, a good way to drive traffic to our center and tenants. But the event also lets us go beyond this benefit and build relationships with our tenants. Some of our other tenants at Riverplace joined the festivities, with Michaels donating a picture frame to this year’s chili champion, and Panera Bread providing snacks to go along with the chili.

All in all, the chili cook-off was a fun day of food, entertainment, networking, and relationship building. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s cook-off, and congratulations to the 2012 winners: Craig and Kurt Wiedegreen of Pickettville Joint Ventures, winners of the $500 1st place prize; Carespot, winner of the $200 2nd place prize; and Troy McMullen, winner of the $100 People’s Choice prize.

The West Council of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce also won in the non-monetary category, and the Mayport Naval Air Station took home the honor in the military category. Hope to see everyone again next year!

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