A taste of Webster City

Jam of the week: “Rogues” by Incubus

A week has passed since RVTV rolled through Webster City. I probably don’t need to remind you that it was, at WHO’s estimate, the largest attendance for a small town RVTV event ever. From the packed streets for the evening broadcast to the cheers I heard outside on Second Street for WHO’s nightly news, community members of both team allegiances came out in droves for the event.

I was out and about most of the day taking photos, covering several stories and even got my beard painted black, gold and red by Tickle the Clown. Apologies to Tickle, as I had to wash off her work before I prepared to judge the chili cookoff hosted at RVTV.

The chance to judge the event was sort of dropped in my lap. Randy Wunschel contacted the Daily Freeman-Journal looking for someone to judge the event. I accepted the offer while not knowing exactly how the contest would go. The prospect of appearing on television was slightly less daunting than the realization that my experience with chili was largely limited to my parent’s homecooked batches and late night chili runs to Steak ‘N Shake.

In order to prepare for the contest, I had to see what the contestants would go through. I had to do something I’ve never done before and make a batch of chili on my own. I found a basic recipe online, made a couple trips to the grocery store after forgetting a couple ingredients and ended up with a watery, subpar chili. While it was far from the quality of any of the chili presented at the RVTV event, eating that batch of chili over the course of the week before really made me appreciate the smell of good chili that wafted though downtown last Wednesday.

Well before judging began, I spoke to many of the chili contestants as they prepared their entries in downtown. That was helpful, because I got a chance to see what was going in the chili, talk with the contestants about why they entered a dish and mentally prepare myself for the spiciest bowls. I disclosed that I was judging the contest with others after talking with participants. That might have been a bit sly, but I wanted to keep that in my pocket to get more casual responses. Of course, the event was much more casual than I expected.

Chili judging was set to begin shortly before the Doodlebug race. Several other judges were unavailable at the time, so after a good wait Randy and I decided to get going. I was thinking I would encounter a WHO reporter with twice my enthusiasm asking me questions about the chili, the contest and if I always stammered through interviews. In the end, I waited in lines with other people to try the chili and get a good afternoon snack in before heading back to write my stories.

I have to give a big thanks to everyone who entered. There were a couple dishes of chili that blew me away but every entry was impressive and unique. When I bumped into Randy again this week, he said that another chili cookoff might be coming to Webster City later this year, although he may not be heading it. Even if I’m not the one judging it, I’ll be sure to see if the chili masters of Webster City can continue to impress me.