Times-Journal wins first place in Alabama River Chili Cookoff contest

Published 4:40 pm Friday, November 11, 2022

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By Travis Gupton

The Selma Times-Journal

The 2022 Alabama River Chili Cookoff had a little bit of everything on Thursday night as cookoff teams and eventgoers crowded into Water Avenue from Broad Street to just past the historic St. James Hotel. From dancing cows and chili peppers to bounce houses and great chili, the festive atmosphere was evident as 22 teams vied for the coveted “Best Chili in Selma,” along with other awards such as “Best Team Spirit.”

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In addition to the team chili cookoff, there was also a team mascot dance-off, which was won by The Selma Times-Journal’s “red hot chili pepper.”

The cookoff was presented by Reliable Chevrolet-GMC, which was the lead sponsor of the event, along with other sponsors including: Alabama State Representative Prince Chestnut, The City of Selma, Selma Family Medicine/ UAB Medicine, Cougar Oil, Sweet Home Alabama, Alex FM, Bush Hog, Vaughn Regional Medical Center, Buchanan Forestry & Timber, Horizon Investment Group, Selma Housing Authority, Children’s Dentistry of Central Alabama, The Selma Times-Journal, Henry Brick, Mark’s Mart, First Cahawba Bank, International Paper, T/W Orthodontics, Kiwanis, Rural Health Medical Program, Inc., Dallas County System of Services, St. James Hotel, Selma Sun, Selma Medical Associates,

Precision Dirtwork and Septic, Rouse Farms, and The Sandbar.

Reliable Chevrolet-GMC had several brand-new vehicles on display, and there was a live remote by Alex FM with classic music to keep attendees moving and grooving from tent to tent as they tested each team’s chili.

The Black Belt Benefit Group provided five judges to taste-test each team’s chili, with the team from The Selma Times-Journal taking first place for best in show. The Selma Sun and Blue Jean Church took second and third respectively. Selma Pediatrics won the best team spirit award.

Clay Carmichael with The Blackbelt Benefit Group said that this was what makes a community event special for all involved.

“We had a really diverse crowd, as usual, making it one of Selma’s most community-oriented events,” Carmichael said. “The teams, sponsors, and volunteers all come together to make this a special event, and we really appreciate their support.”

The Selma Times-Journal team has participated every year, but this was the first win for the group, which was led by the newspaper’s advertising manager, Tina Yelverton, her husband Mike, and advertising sales representative Bill Tomey.

“This event always brings out the best in Selma,” said Times-Journal Publisher Dennis Palmer. “It was great to see such a wonderful cross-section of Selma all joining together for some fun and fellowship in downtown Selma. I couldn’t be more proud of the staff of The Selma Times-Journal for winning the top award. I knew from helping hand out chili samples to attendees they really liked what Tina cooked up for them, so I was optimistic we would win and am proud of what the team accomplished. And kudos to Travis Gupton, our new staff reporter, for donning the chili pepper costume and bringing home a win in the mascot dance-off.”

Proceeds from the cookoff will go to Cahaba Mental Health, which serves people in Dallas, Perry, and Wilcox Counties who have a mental illness or a developmental disability.

Black Belt Benefit Group Member Josh Wilkerson said he is incredibly proud of how the event went on Thursday.

“We were thrilled at the turnout as well as the number of teams that participated,” Wilkerson said. “Although we haven’t finished calculating the exact figures, we are confident that the total in attendance was north of 500. That’s a huge crowd. All of whom came out for not only a great time together as a community, but also to support a worthy beneficiary, Cahaba Center. Being that this was our first full-scale Chili Cookoff since COVID restrictions were lifted, we are more than pleased with how well the event went. Selma sure knows how to step up in support of a good cause, and that makes me proud to have the privilege of being even a small part of it.”