By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
RAVENA — From moose meat to venison to “boomer chili,” there was something for every culinary taste at the first annual chili cook-off at Senior Projects of Ravena last weekend.
“We are having our first annual chili cook-off,” said Assistant Director Lakken Kovacik from Senior Projects. “Earlier this year we did Soup for Seniors in February, but this is our first chili cook-off, and I’m hoping to make both of them annual events.”
There were 15 contestants, most of them home cooks, bringing their special brand of chili for the community to try out. Each paid $10 to enter the contest, and the $150 that was raised was the prize money for the winning cook. Local residents paid $10 for adults and $5 for children under age 12 to try out the chili and pick their favorite.
“People from the community are given tickets to vote for their favorite chili and whichever contestant has the most tickets at the end of the day wins the prize money,” Kovacik said.
“You get to taste all 15 chilis and we have little corn muffins and some of the chilis have toppings you can put on, like sour cream and cheese,” Kovacik said. “You taste all of them and then vote for your favorites.”
After trying out 15 different versions of chili, no one went home hungry.
At the end of the contest, the big winner was Hayden Hyslop, but the race was close.
“Every one that I’ve tried so far has been really good,” Kovacik said.
The money raised during the event will go towards the various needs of Senior Projects of Ravena, which may include the purchase of a new ice machine or a warming oven.
“Every single penny that we raise goes right into the senior center, whether it’s for paying bills or buying a new appliance that we desperately need,” Kovacik said.
Volunteers Lou Smith and Sarah Covey signed in visitors at the reception table, and said Senior Projects is an important resource for the area’s elderly. Both are also members of the facility.
“I love the senior center because I get to meet all kinds of different people and serve dinner to them,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoy it.”
“I have been here for 25 years and we do a lot,” Covey said. “We go on many trips, we have parties — it keeps you young and out in the public, helping people.”
Village Ambassador Rebecca Shook entered her chili — a family recipe for venison “Hunstsman’s Chili” that she got from her uncle John. She was happy to see the community sharing each other’s bounty.
“This annual chili cook-off is another good example of being a community by sharing what we have with one another,” Shook said. “It shows how much we care for each other.”
Mayor Bill “Moose” Misuraca, owner of the Halfway House Tavern, brought his special “Moose Meat Chili,” giving many their first taste of moose.
“This recipe uses actual moose that my friend got in Nova Scotia. He hunted it there,” Misuraca said.
Senior Projects provides much-needed resources for the senior population, the mayor said.
“Senior Projects is a very valuable resource for seniors in the community,” Misuraca said. “They can get a lot of the things they need at little to no cost, and also socialize, which is really important, too.”
Darlene Mergendahl worked for the facility since 1984 and now serves on the organization’s board of directors. She has seen many generations of area residents come through the doors over the years.
“I have watched my friends’ great-grandparents coming here back in the ‘80s, to their grandparents, to their parents, and now it’s us ourselves starting to show up,” Mergendahl said. “So, I’ve seen generation after generation using the services that we provide, which is wonderful because that means we affect the whole community, not just the senior community.”