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Chili for charity

Almost 2,500 show up for sheriff's cookoff

Posted: August 30, 2008 9:14 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Robert Alexander, left, and Louis Dieters from the Sheriff Department Facility Service Department organize their chili samples.

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Joanne Doggett loves chili. While she enjoys eating spicy chili, the Canyon Country resident prefers recipes that are cooked a certain way.

"I like the ones that don't taste like chili powder," she said in between tasting her tenth sample of chili.

That means eating chili with tasty ingredients like green chilies and flavorful spices.

Doggett was at the right place on Saturday as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department hosted their annual "Fun in the Sun Chili Cookoff" at the Jack Bones Equestrian Center in Castaic, giving chili fans from across Southern California an opportunity to indulge in the famed chili recipes made fresh by law enforcement members and their families.

Between 2,000 and 2,500 people gathered on the hot Saturday afternoon, an increase from last year's cookoff, said Sgt. Gerri McCorkle, one of the coordinators of the cook off.

She credits the increase in promoting the event and the holiday weekend.

"I think people are staying in town because of the gas prices," she said.

At the cook off, attendees guided by their "chili cards" bounced between the 20 chili booths that were mixed in with the 30 or so vendor booths that lined the dirt trails of the Equestrian Center.

Using bullhorns, microphones or just their loud voices, chili chefs stood outside their tables and tried to convince those walking by that they had the best chili.

Dan Maloney, Robert Alexander and Louis Dieters of the North Facility of Pitchess Detention Center caught people with their UFO-themed booth that was complete with a rotating flyer saucer and water-squirting gun.

The winners of last year's cookoff were ready to win again, despite the fact that their chili had sold out by the afternoon.

"We had a large crowd and the chili was good," Alexander said. "The chili went quick."

Maloney added, "It's flavorful. It's got a little zip to it."

Firefighter Philip Lourito of Fire Station 124 hoped to draw people to his booth that featured a make-your-own style chili. The booth had won the most spirited award during the last two cookoffs.

He called the chili "moderate in chili taste," but what made it special was that tasters were able to add their own condiments, ranging from crackers to cilantro and onions.

His team mates sounded on a siren every few minutes, denoting that an attendee had voted for their chili.

Lourito, a Lancaster resident, had teamed firefighters with the Sheriff's Special Victims Bureau and together they dedicated their booth to the memory of 21-year-old Daniel Scott, son of Sgt. Dan Scott of the Special Victims Bureau. Daniel Scott died in a car crash.

Being part of the chili cook off for a third year gave Lourito and his team of 11 a way to "spend time out there" with the public.

It's a perspective attendee Doggett saw as well.

"It's a positive way to see the sheriffs," she said, noting that there is a sense of camaraderie between the deputies and their families.

The proceeds from the cookoff benefited the Special Olympics Santa Clarita and Heads Up Therapy on Horseback, a Canyon Country-based nonprofit organization that provides therapy and assistance to children and adults with special needs.

The sheriff's department has been involved with the Special Olympics before, but McCorkle said the department wanted to lend a hand to Heads Up, especially as the organization continues to rebuild from last year's wildfires.

"We're helping them get back on their feet," she said.

Final numbers of how much was raised were not ready Saturday, but McCorkle said, "I would love to give them $10,000 each."

Whatever the donation would be, the two organizations were pleased to be part of the cookoff, which has been held for 24 years.

Laura Mayo, regional director for the Special Olympics Santa Clarita, believes the donation will help greatly.

"It's been a tough year," she said. "It's been tighter than previous years. This will get us through the last quarter of the year."

Stephanie Hoefener and Charles Allen, Heads Up board members, considers it a "huge honor" to be the recipient of the cookoff's donations.

"It's getting our name back out there," Hoefener said.

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