Chili cook-off benefits Selma recovery efforts

Published 9:41 am Thursday, November 16, 2023

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The 11th annual Alabama River Chili Cook-off unfolded on Nov. 9 from 5-7 p.m. at 1122 Water Avenue in Selma. The event, presented by the Black Belt Benefit Group and Reliable Chevrolet GMC, not only showcased the city’s culinary prowess, but also served as a beacon of hope for tornado recovery efforts in Selma.

The Long-Term Recovery Committee took on the responsibility of judging this year’s entries, with all proceeds earmarked for aiding those affected by the devastating tornado that struck Selma earlier this year. 

Contestant Laronica Smith, representing Selma UAB Family Medicine, expressed deep gratitude for the event, emphasizing its impact on her family.

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“They’re giving all the proceeds to tornado victims,”Smith said. “My dad was a victim of the tornado. He totally lost everything – his home, his belongings, everything. So many people were affected by the tornado. So many people are still in hotels now, trying to find their way, and they have kids. It’s really so sad, so I’m grateful for this contest and we really are having fun too.”

Despite the somber backdrop, the atmosphere at the cook-off was festive with live music and attendees laughing, dancing and tasting each team’s creations to vote for the Fan Favorite award, which was taken home by Reliable GMC Chevrolet. The Most Spirited award went to Hogstone and Associates. The contest’s third place winner was Clearwater Solutions, second place went to Bush Hog and the first-place trophy went to contestant Michael Stokes, who expressed his surprise and delight at winning, pledging to return for another shot at glory next year.

Alabama State Senator Robert Stewart, who lent his support to the event, expressed his gratitude to the Black Belt Benefit Group and emphasized the importance of these types of events in fostering unity. 

“This was a momentous occasion,” Stewart said. ”It was so great to see people from all walks of life together, celebrating, embracing our southern hospitality and culture and just coming together in unity”

Clay Carmichael, City Councilman and member of the Black Belt Benefit group reflected on the community’s resilience in the face of adversity.

“We are thankful for the support from the attendees to the teams to the sponsors,” Carmichael said “They make these events happen. This year to date we raised over fifty thousand dollars for Selma’s long-term recovery from the Jan. 12 tornado. That’s mostly local, which is a strong testament to this community’s willingness to help one another.”