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Cook-off warms cold crowd

Those who attended Thursday night’s Alabama Wildlife Federation Cook-off at the Central Alabama Co-op, quickly overcame the cold temperatures with a little hot food and warm smiles.

An hour into the competition, the area was flooded with people hoping to get a taste of one of the alligators harvested during the summer season on the Alabama River, fresh duck, or one of the many other dishes available.

AWF board member Doug Smith said the weather was not exactly what the group had hoped for, but as long as conditions stayed dry, everything would go as planned.

“We could have had a little better weather, but it’s not raining,” he said. “We’re happy about that.”

Teams from all over the region gathered to try out their best recipes. Though each group was focused on competing at the highest level, they also found time to socialize.

This, Choot ‘em team member Duncan Hope said, is what makes the event great.

“It’s good to see everybody and see how everybody is doing,” he said. “There are new things every year, so whether you win or lose, it’s just fun to hang out with everybody.”

Those who were simply there to sample some of the rare cuisine also said they enjoy seeing old friends each year. Valley Grande resident Jennifer Ford said she enjoys the atmosphere just as much as the food.

“We’ve been coming to the cookout for a while now,” she said. “We like the social aspect of it, and, of course, the food. It’s always neat and you get to see a bunch of people. We’re just glad the rain held off.”

Though the event had just opened, one of the organizers and competitors, Tim Wood, said he was impressed with the crowd. As expected, Tim said the Dallas County alligator was a popular dish.

“We have an excellent turnout and we’ve seen just about every kind of food,” he said. “We knew we would see a lot of alligator.”

In addition to fun, those in attendance also helped educate young people with their ticket prices. Proceeds from the event go toward Lanark in Millbrook to assist with educational programs that teach children about wildlife and conservation.

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