Cooks Show Off Chili

NEW BREMEN — Almost 30 teams competed in the Bremenfest Annual Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, all vying for the top spots and bragging rights for the best chili in New Bremen.

Participants lined the perimeter of the Crown Pavilion in New Bremen since Saturday morning preparing 28 pots of chili that would be judged on by festival-goers and by Bremenfest judges.

Sisters Steph Heitkamp and Sheila Wenning, both of New Bremen, dressed up as Stepford wives for their “perfect Stepford chili.”

“You have to cook it here,” Heitkamp said, noting they began the cooking process at 7:30 a.m. “People like it so far — we’ve had one guy who’s come back for thirds.”

The sisters said they had competed one time before in a chili cook-off.

“It’s just fun,” Heitkamp said.

“We have a love of chili,” Wenning added.

New Bremen natives Andy Pape, Greg Moeller, Jake Meyer, Tony Maurer, Ava Maurer and Greg Luthman traded tattoos for chili, as they used former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor as their chili mascot.

“I’m an anti-Buckeye, probably the only one in the state of Ohio,” Pape said of their theme. “Terrelle Pryor loves our chili — he’s actually holding our chili in the picture.”

He added the group was hoping to beat a specific competitor, who was located across from them in the pavilion.

“We’re trying to rip the other guys, particularly the Lonely Farts Club Chili,” he said.

While the group was giving samples to festival-goers, Meyer offered his tattoo services.

“We’ve been doing it for 12 years,” Pape said. “We always choose the best name  — we have the best name and the worst chili, but I think we’ll win this time.”

The group’s competitors, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Farts Club Chili, donned their best Beatles outfits for Saturday’s cook-off. The group included Matt Campbell, Rodney Suchland, Bruce Suchland and Ben Wissman.

“We were extra creative this year — our creative juices were flowing,” Rodney Suchland said. “We always think of a good name — if something hit us, we run with it.”

This year’s name, he said, needed a little extra help.

“The way we got it was with a little help from our friends,” he said.

Suchland noted the group first participated in the Bremenfest cook-off in 2002.

“The first year, we were ‘The Chili That Canned Cooper,’ then we were ‘Tiki Toruture,’” he said. “Last year, we were ‘Fire in the Hole’ and we dressed as coal miners.”

The cook-off, he said, is a way for the group to get together every year.

“You get the same group of guys every year, and it’s one of the only times we get to see each other during the year,” he said.

Across the pavilion, Henry Nelson helped his group prepare the chili. The 5-year-old son of Craig and Kristen Nelson has been participating in the cook-off since he was born.

“I cut the veggies,” Henry said. “I cooked the meat, and I came up with the name.”

Henry’s name was Chili Act Arrest, a play on cardiac arrest.

He also noted which chili he thought was best.

“Ours,” he said.

After the judging, the top chili winners were announced. First place went to Black Cat Chili by Nancy Armstrong; second place went to Chili 96 by Steve Bushman, Chad Wuebker, Eric Dicke, Jeremy Homan and Matt Craft; third place went to Team No Name by Jeff Thobe and Derek Winner; fourth place went to Utz is Peeing by Jeff Utz, Rob Tangeman and Doug Overman.

Happy Little Chili by Dot Scheer, Greg Scheer and Brittany Hartwig took home best name; Black Cat Chili took home best display; 2 Gud 4 Words Chili by Troy Suchland, Mark Suchland and Allen Garber took home people’s choice.

The top three chilis were auctioned off. First place went for $600 to the New Bremen American Legion, second place went for $350 to Miller’s Insurance and third place went for $300 to Gilberg Hartwig Funeral Home and to New Bremen Insurance.