They say, "It's a sick dog who won't wag its own tail."
Updated: Mar 30
This past Saturday October 29th, 2022 marked Bramwell, West Virginia's inaugural annual chili cook-off and although we encountered only minor challenges that were easily overcome, I'd say it was a laughing good time coupled with gentle smack talk, friendly banter, delicious chili, and one memorable afternoon. Stonewalled by the powers that be, our team undeterred and tenacious as ever pushed forward. Some party planners claimed they'd be happy if only we sanguine nine attended, but luckily sabotage was thwarted and we fortunate few managed over fifty guests, fifty that paid, mind you.
Home for the day was the Lodge at Bramwell also known as the Bramwell Masonic Lodge No. 45 on the corner of Main and Bloch. This hand-hewn bluestone and brick edifice built in 1893 held the Bramwell Chapter of the Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in days of yore. Saturday, ten chili cook-off entrants, some bedecked in their Halloween garb, others not-so-much, but ALL armed with their chili ladles and crock pots, playfully protested and exclaimed that their chili will win each of the three coveted categories - "Best in Show" whose winner can claim the best costume and table accoutrements, "Most Unique" to be interpreted as one sees fit and perhaps not as desirable as one would think, and needing no further explanation "Best Overall". With all of this friendly raillery and light-hearted jibbing, I heard more than once the very apt words, “It’s a sick dog who won’t wag its own tail”.
Without our selfless community coming together, our first ever annual chili cook-off would never have come to fruition. The local Bramwell Volunteer Fire Department provided cold drinks with Everette Perry kindly donating his time to help out, our favorite café and coffee shop on Main the Honeycomb Café, unstintingly provided sheets of the most delectable and moist cornbread you could ever imagine, and face-painter extraordinaire Jessica Frybarger painted those sweet little faces of the shorter guests in attendance.
The Lodge welcomed our attendees, each sampling and some devouring the proffered chilis. Old friends met while new friendships were forged. Conversations filled the hall, ballots were cast and before we even knew it, the bottoms of crocks were soon discovered and the long-awaited outcome of the votes were announced. “Best in Show” went to our very own Betty Goins, local historical interpreter and author of The Comprehensive History of Bramwell, West Virginia. “Most Unique” went to yours truly, likely due to the improbable choice of serving Pumpkin Chili with Cornbread Stuffing and would just as soon have won the “most frowned at and least likely to try” chili had we the foresight to offer that category. The highly sought-after “Best Overall” title surprisingly was shared by two entrants due to a tie between the formidable Rodney Holcomb who graciously provided the afternoon’s music entertainment and curiously myself.
Our day would not be complete without mentioning the captain of our ship Jackie Shahan with her fermented zombie brains chili, Lisa Campbell with her tasty venison chili, Marty Gearheart of the Republican Party running for re-election to the West Virginia House of Delegates for District 37, and Merrell “Skip” Crane the Democratic Party candidate vying for that same seat. No worries friends, we strategically placed them on opposite ends of the hall, but unintentionally in direct line of sight of each other.
Bramwell, West Virginia's First Annual Chili Cook Off was sponsored and planned by The Bramwell Theatre Corporation a local organization that seeks to "showcase Bramwell through the arts and artistic endeavors, educational opportunities, historical tourism and economic revitalization." Reader, you may very well recognize the name as this group is responsible for the ever-so-popular Bramwell historic home tours featured annually during the Spring and Christmas seasons. I highly encourage each and every one of you to attend this year's tour on Saturday December 10th, 2022 from 5PM to 8PM. Get your tickets in advance for the Bramwell Christmas Tour of Homes here!
Many members of the community expressed their support of the chili cook-off. Jackie Shahan, President and spokesperson for The Bramwell Theatre Corporation showed great enthusiasm declaring she, "was entirely pleased with the event. Being our first attempt, we had no gauge as to what to expect. People showed up early and were enthusiastic. There were many entrants, which provided a lot of variety in the chilis as well as the themes. It was well attended and the atmosphere was festive, and comfortable." Jackie went on to say the "event was well received" and hinted that the chili cook-off may "be a recurring event." All-in-all, the Bramwell, West Virginia's First Annual Chili Cook-Off was everything we'd hoped it would be and look forward to next year's celebration in anticipation.
Be sure to stay up-to-date on all things Bramwell, West Virginia by visiting www.BramwellWestVA.com and follow the Bramwell Advocate Blog at www.bramwellwestva.com/thebramwelladvocate.