Civic center fair and chili competition draws a crowd


Steve Whitford

On Saturday, Nov. 8, vendors, chili cooks and community members gathered at the Key Peninsula Civic Center for the 7th annual Winter Craft Fair. Along with the 39 vendors’ tables, there was live entertainment, food and the traditional Chili Cook-off.

This year eight people submitted their Tex-Mex creations to be evaluated by this year’s judges.

Firefighters Chuck West and Frank Grubaugh, both “seasoned” veterans of past cook-offs, and first-timer Keith Davies rated each entry by its appearance, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste, in a blind taste test.

No discussion was allowed and each judge was required to cleanse his palate after each sample. The entire process was coordinated by Pat Medveckus.

This year’s winners were: Kenny Grant, third place; Kathleen Tei, second place; with first place awarded to Ron Schillinger. All the judges agreed that Schillinger should make chili for them on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, some 39 vendors sold their handmade wares.

There were softcrafts, jewelry, books, soap, wood working, photography and many other creations.

Some examples include the Pandamanda Foundation table, a creation of Ryan and Sara Messinger. One hundred percent of their jewelry sales go to fight cystic fibrosis.

There was Sis Lavigne and her Pickled Organics. She boasts of being the only licensed organic pickler in the state.

Family spirit abounded at the Murphy table. Maddie, 9, Ethan, 8, and Danica, 7, all helped make the snowmen that adorned their Christmas cards.

Rich and Dana Ziemba ran the Paws in Time table featuring jewelry made with wooden scrabble game squares.

For some vendors, this was their first time, but many had participated for several years. And a few bragged of having been at all seven fairs at the center.

Kathy Best, knitted hat-maker, said, “I’ve been doing fairs in our area for the last 35 years.” Every vendor and their work had a story to be told.

Amid the sales, participants and visitors were entertained by two musical groups. Xylophone and percussion numbers were performed by Vaughn Elementary students. This is a 30-some member group of fourth and fifth graders who do all their practicing at recess and on their own time.

“The children love what they are doing and are available for future performances,” said their music teacher, Lisa Mills.

Others performing were the Blue Grass Minstrels, a group founded in 2013 that includes four local pastors and people from various churches. Santa himself even showed up for the children.

In the kitchen, chili and hot dogs were served up to the hungry by Sherri Lagood, who’s been doing it for the last three years. She was ably assisted by Tyvel Elston Young Jr., Colleen Young and Cassidy Young. Diners consumed more than 100 hotdogs, 75 bags of chips and a whopping 81 pounds of chili.