Sep 18, 2019 | By: Rachel Johnson

Lakes Area United Way Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Chili Cook-Off

Every year, people in the Brainerd Lakes Area look forward to a “filling” tradition: the United Way Chili Cook-Off. And on a cool fall day, what’s better than a nice warm bowl of chili?

“Everybody loves chili, especially in the fall. We’ve had some fall days recently and then it became second summer a little bit, but it’s fall,” said Lakes Area United Way Executive Director Kim Rollins.

That is why there is a long-standing tradition of the United Way hosting a chili cook-off as their annual celebration and fundraiser.

“We’re just ecstatic to be back here this fall and enjoying seeing everybody and the enthusiasm for the Chili Cook-Off,” said Lakes Area United Way board chair Todd Bymark.

The Chili Cook-Off invites businesses and non-profit organizations from across the Lakes area to cook their own chili recipe. Then members of the community come in, try the chili, and vote on their favorite.

“It’s so fun to see all the different types and kinds of chili that are put together because they are very unique,” said Rollins. “We have some hot. We have some sweet. We have some that are boiled in bourbon.”

The cook-off is always a hit with the chili chefs and chili tasters alike.

“People are really enjoying it and we are joining around with everybody,” said chili chef Steve Moe. “Everybody is having a really good time.”

Though there is still an abundance of chili, this year, the event was a little different. 2019 marks the organization’s 50th anniversary, and with that, what used to be called the United Way of Crow Wing & Southern Cass Counties decided to change their name to better encompass who they serve.

“We are now Lakes Area United Way,” Rollins said. “So this is our subtle, not-so-subtle launch of our new name.”

Though the name may be changing, the purpose of the United Way and the Chili Cook-Off remains the same – to give back and bring the community together.

“It’s a very giving community and for this community to show up like they do for this chili cook-off, that’s really the best part about it,” said Bymark. “Seeing everybody and the large crowd that come to this every year.”

After the results were tallied, Cashwise Liquor took home the prize of best chili made by a business, and the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation and the Brainerd Learning Center won the people’s choice award.

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