FAYETTEVILLE — The name, “Chilirhea,” is so easily confused with another word that sounds like it, that Cory Scott has gotten used to people having him repeat it.
After all, Scott was just a kid in his early 20s when he and some college buddies cooked up the name for a fundraiser. Trophies for the seventh annual event, held Saturday (Feb. 18) at Pratt Place Barn, were displayed on packaged rolls of White Cloud toilet paper.
“You know, first comes the chili, then comes the rhea,” he said.
The party started as a way for him and his friends to stay in touch. The first event included about 15 people hunkered down in Scott’s garage. By 2009, there were several sponsors, 15 teams and more than 125 people gathered on snow and ice covering Scott’s front yard. The 2010 event was the first to benefit Alzheimer’s Arkansas, specifically caregivers taking care of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses.
Scott’s grandmother died from Alzheimer’s. So did the mother of one of his sponsors, Dr. Terryl Ortego, head of the Northwest Arkansas Gastroenterology Clinic. His daughter, Lindsey, led a team in the chili cookoff competition.
Guests paid $30 for all the beer, chili and live music they could handle. This year’s goal was to raise $20,000, and they were so close at quitting time that people started throwing currency at him “just like in It’s a Wonderful Life,” Scott said.
Judges were Maudie Schmitt, Garret Krier of KNWA-TV, Carolyn Hetrick, Susan Tyler and Mitch Petrus, a former Razorback who helped lead the New York Giants in a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots (he has not yet received his ring, by the way.)
Chilirhea winners included Opal’s Best Chili from Arkansas CAMA Technology Inc., Phillip and Mike Scott: the judges’ winner and second place for People’s Choice; Team Pretty from Cafe Rue Orleans: second place; Team Red Solo Cup from Rich’s Food Products; and John Scott: winner, People’s Choice.
By mid-afternoon, when the party was at full tilt, officials had to pull the plug on the band due to excess noise. Many participating had also run out of bowls and chili. Scott looked over another successful event and started thinking about more ways to improve.
“At least with the name, no one forgets it,” continued Scott. “It sticks.”