One tasty competition

The annual Marion County Chili Cook-off once again had amateur and professional chefs vying for top honors, including one firefighter on injured reserve.

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Posted November 6, 2023 | By Susan Smiley-Height/
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

The Southeastern Livestock Pavilion was packed with chili chefs on Nov. 4, much to the delight of the throngs of people who came to sample the wares during the 42nd annual Marion County Chili Cook-off.

The fundraiser for The Cornerstone School continues to be a fall favorite thing to do in Ocala. There were Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice honors up for grabs in the cook-off and a classic car show.

There also was judging of participant booths and recognition for the Trapper Ron Morgan Spirit Award, which was given to the Cornerstone School National Junior Honor Society team.

This year, 26 teams entered their chili concoction into the judged portion of the event. One team, however, had its team captain on the injured reserve list after Marion County Fire Rescue Capt. Chris Trubelhorn was injured while fighting a fire on Nov. 1.

According to Joseph Romani, the public information officer for The Professional Fire Fighters of Marion County,  Trubelhorn normally coordinates the group’s chili preparation and booth.

“Always a crowd favorite and the People’s Choice winner in the 41st annual chili cook-off, the PFFMC organized with over 30 volunteers to continue Capt. Trubelhorn’s history of a strong showing. Members met at the Union Hall on Nov. 3 to fine-tune the recipe and cook the approximately 50 gallons of chili. The team made a “Sweet and Spicy” along with a “Certified People’s Choice” chili under the watch of PFFMC member Charles Carey. Capt Trubelhorn was kept up to date with phone calls and text messages,” Romani said in a press release.

Taking top honors in the Judge’s Choice Chili category were:

  • Grand Champion – Unicorn Chili
  • First runner-up – Cantina Tex Mex
  • Second runner-up – Florida Twirling Academy/City of Ocala Water Resources
  • Best Restaurant – Cantina Tex Mex

In the People’s Choice Chili category, the winners were:

  • Grand Champion – Ocala Fire Rescue
  • First runner-up – Marion County Fire Rescue

In the booth-judging categories, the winners were:

  • Judged Booth – Grand Champion, HCA Health Care; first runner-up, Great Expectations Realty
  • People’s Choice – Grand Champion, J&J Treasures; first runner-up, Ocala Fire Rescue

Taking home the honors in the car show were:

  • Best in Show – Dave Lane, ’67 Camaro
  • Pre-‘90s Original – Dennis Whisler, ’61 Buick Lasabre
  • Pre-‘90s Modified – James Hartley, ’71 C-10 Pickup
  • Modern Original – Greg Martin, ’95 Ford Bronco
  • Modern Modified – Phil Hamer, 2021 Sling Shot
  • Build In Progress – Chuck Brentzel, ’70 Ford F-100
  • People’s Choice – Randy Hudson, ’51 Ford F-1

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