Chili out in Iona on Sunday

There is nothing better than a great big batch of chili. Except maybe being in a building where there are a bunch of great big batches of chili.

I love chili. I love to eat it, and make a pretty mean batch of it. In fact, my venison chili is something of a legend among some of the FishingMinnesota guys.

I love to try other people’s chili, too, so I especially love going to chili feeds and contests. I’m not a fan of really hot chili because it violates one of my food rules – food should not hurt – but a bit of zing is a good thing.

Not to knock any other chili feeds out there, because there are great ones, but my personal favorite each year is the annual St. Patrick’s Chili Contest in Iona, which is this Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the St. Columba Hall. It is a fundraiser for the Iona Fire Department and First Responders.

I think the reason it is my favorite is because they also have soups, grilled cheese sandwiches, desserts and green beer. We go every year, and every year I walk away stuffed as a tick and wishing I had just a bit more room in my stomach because I know I missed trying something.

For the past few years, my parents have accompanied us, so we all sit there debating the merits of different chili and taking spoonfuls out of each other’s bowls. We’ve pulled total strangers into the debate, and made a few new friends in the process.

In past years we have taken whichever kids are around, and one year one of the boys made an effort to have one bowl of every kind of chili available. I thought he’d pop. I haven’t checked with Matthew yet to see if he wants to come. He isn’t much of a chili fan (odd, isn’t he?) but with soup and other stuff, he manages to put away quite a bit of food anyway.

As fire department members, my husband and I try to hit different department’s fundraisers to support their efforts. But we have gotten to a point where we actually anticipate this one and make plans around it. He and I and my parents coordinated our plan of attack last night over a beer.

Every year, as we sit in the hall stuffing our faces, my husband asks me why I didn’t enter the contest. And every year, I tell him I plan to next year.

Well, guess what? I didn’t enter it this year again, because it seems to sneak up on me.
Gather the kids, the parents, your uncle George and Grandma Sally and head over to Iona for a chili feast. Add a green beer and brownie ala mode for dessert and you’ll find the Iona St. Patrick’s Chili Contest is something you’ll want to return to again and again each year.

Hope to see you there!