Chili gurus battle it out in Philippi

The smell of chili filled the air Saturday in Philippi as 17 groups or individuals vied for prizes with their chili recipes at the Smokin’ on the Tygart Chili Cook-off.

One family took home multiple prizes, including the largest trophy, People’s Choice. Rochelle and Jim Sutton call their chili “50 Stars Chili” – and the judges and crowd seemed to agree this weekend. They also won best dressed cooks and first place in the individual’s division for their chili recipe.

“We’re surprised and just tickled to death,” said Rochelle Sutton, adding that she couldn’t wait to tell her kids about the chili’s success. Jim Sutton said the winning streak has never happened to them before.

Second place in the individual division went to Sam Muncy. Third place went to Rod Stemple and Jeff McCartney.

In the business division, first place was awarded to Schoonover-Stemple Funeral Homes, second place was given to City of Philippi chili by Bill Knight, who works in the city’s water department, and third place went to Myers Clinic. Schoonover-Stemple Funeral Homes also won best named chili with “Gravedigger Chili.”

“I love making chili,” Gary Schoonover said. “I love watching people eat my chili. When they come back and say they love my chili, it’s worth it all.”

In the organizations category, 70s Decade Reunion took first place, Philippi Nazarene Church garnered second place and West Virginia University Trauma Center came in third place. The “most atomic” chili award went to Dave Fenstermacher. The best decorated booth award went to High Voltage Chili by Dustin and Jessica Douglas.

The Douglas’ booth was called High Voltage Chili. Dustin Douglas said he is originally from Elkins and makes chili at home. This year, his wife convinced him to make it at the cook-off. He was aiming to win people’s choice this year.

“We want the judges to like it too, but I’d rather the people like it,” Douglas said.

This year’s chili judges were Councilman Terrence Boyd, Victoria Weaver from the office of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, accountant Susan Michette, former morning radio host Eric McGuire and news director and anchor Nate Smail.

For the first year, a vehicle cruise-in replaced the annual poker run. Cars and motorcycles lined the streets, and part of Main Street was closed. Four awards were given to cruise-in participants. Best of Show was awarded to Todd Hansford of Philippi for his 1967 Corvette. The oldest car award went to Charles Phillips of Philippi, the oldest bike award went to Chuck and Donna Kuhn of Grafton, and the traveled farthest award went to Nate Nay of Morgantown.

Boyd said the cook-off event had a good turnout.

“I’m having a great time,” the councilman said. “It’s a nice turnout.”

To other city officials, the turnout wasn’t quite what it was expected to be.

“The crowd is a little down, but everybody seems to be having a good time,” said City Clerk and Philippi Main Street’s Tammy Stemple.

The Smokin’ on the Tygart Chili Cook-off is an annual Philippi Main Street event sponsored this year by the Philippi Convention and Visitors Bureau, Snyder Industries, Little Moe’s, the City of Philippi, Broaddus Hospital, Alderson-Broaddus College and Schoonover-Stemple Funeral Homes.