By Kitsey Burns Harrison
HAMPTONVILLE — The sun was shining and the air had the perfect fall nip as county employees gathered last Friday at the Yadkin Memorial Park for their annual chicken stew and chili cookoff.
“This is a wonderful time for our employees to show their culinary skills and creativity with costumes, while enjoying the outdoor view of Lake Hampton before the weather turns cold,” said County Manager Lisa Hughes. “This was the county’s fourth annual Employee Chicken Stew and Chili Cook-Off.”
There were multiple CrockPots of homemade chili and chicken stew for sampling. Each employee got a chance to vote on their favorites.
The reigning champ, Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal, once again claimed the award for best chili. Vestal’s chili, chock full of tender pieces of beef and just the right amount of spiciness, has been named the best chili all four years the event has been held.
Vestal was keeping his recipe a secret, but he did say it was expensive to make due to the beef he uses for the recipe.
Yadkin County Fire Marshal Ricky Leonard, who also competed in the chili cookoff, was keeping his recipe close to the vest as well, though he did divulge it featured venison and was a recipe from his grandpa.
Claiming the best chicken stew award for the second year in a row was Robin Moxley, wife of Commissioner David Moxley and part-time employee at the Yadkin Memorial Park. She said her homemade chicken broth was the secret to the stew.
County board of commissioners Chairman Kevin Austin didn’t compete in the culinary competition, but said he was enjoying sampling all the good food at the celebration.
“I’m a consumer not a chef,” Austin said.
“I grill a pretty good steak though,” he added with a grin, prompting other county employees to quickly suggest that as the next employee party.
As part of the celebration, which took place the day before Halloween, many attendees were also in costume. Commissioner Frank Zachary got a lot of laughs in his conehead costume. For the fourth year in a row, the Human Services Department claimed the award for best costumes as Noah and the animals from the ark, two by two, of course.
“It’s a great time for employees and the commissioners to come together for good food and good times,” Hughes said.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.