By Martie Thompson

Held on a crisp and cool fall Saturday, Nov. 17 at RiverPlace shopping center, the 22nd annual Fall Festival and Chili Cook Off exceeded attendance expectations. This highly anticipated event had an estimated crowd of 1,500 who came to enjoy chili tasting, music, craft vendors and a bounce house for kids. New this year was the opportunity to enjoy a beer or glass of wine while tasting the varieties of homemade chili.

A panel of local celebrity judges had the delicious task of blind tasting the 15 registered chili cook off recipes. The panel of judges, which included Mandarin City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, State Rep. Jason Fischer, and Mandarin Museum & Historical Society president Sandy Arpen, selected Richard Becker as the first place winner, followed by Nathan Caldwell of Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers. The People’s Choice Award went to Stumbling Steer BBQ.

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Proceeds from the silent auction will benefit Safe Kids of Northeast Florida, the Mandarin Food Bank, Junior Achievement and Mandarin Council’s Janice Meisel Scholarship Fund.

“I’d like to give a big ‘Thank you’ to the community and all of our sponsors, vendors and chili cookers,” said Alan Painter, who chaired the event for the Mandarin Council. “It was so wonderful to see so many from the Mandarin community come together for a good time, right in the heart of the community.”

Attendees were able to peruse the wares of more than 25 arts and craft vendors and there was a bounce house for the kids. The Northeast Florida Conservatory’s jazz band and the Top Shelf Band were big hits and helped draw in the crowds.

Sponsors come together to make this event a success year after year. The sponsors for the 22nd annual event were Jax Chamber Mandarin Council, VyStar Credit Union, Florida Blue, Mandarin NewsLine, Alan Painter at Edward Jones, Mandarin Neighbors, Mosquito Joe, About Floors ‘n More, Alli Stephanuik at Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty, Gold Star Adjusters, Primero Spine and Joint, SBS Promotional Solutions, Sumner Digital, Swimming Safari, The Flying Locksmiths and Northeast Florida Conservatory.


[Editor’s Note: Check back next month for more details and photos from the Fall Festival and Chili Cook Off, including an update on the total funds raised for charity.]


Photo courtesy Jessica Wells

Stumbling Steer BBQ’s chili earned the People’s Choice award.


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