By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ELWOOD — About 800 participants got up early Saturday to run through the city for a good cause.
Then it was time for chili.
About 4,000 people showed up throughout the day for the second annual Run to Crush Hunger, and then the 28th Red Gold Chili Cook-off, in downtown Elwood. The plaza around City Hall was transformed into a chili cooking and testing zone, with a total of 26 teams showing off their best chili. But this year, the festival also featured 25 craft vendors and kiosks for the Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts.
Colt Reichart, communications manager for Red Gold, said the turnout in 2013 is roughly what it's been in past years, but the event itself is bigger, with almost double the tents from a few years ago.
"We've really expanded the event," Reichart said. "There's a lot more of the city involved. We've got the Colts and the Pacers. And we have the IMS stock cars here, too. I think that's all added to the popularity and the success of the event."
Reichart, the son of company CEO Brian Reichart, said the festival was organized as an opportunity for the company to give back to the community. All the proceeds of the race and the cook-off go to local food banks. Red Gold spokesperson Lydia Hatter said the event raised about $14,000 in 2012 and the company set a goal of exceeding that amount in 2013. She said this year's total won't be tallied for about a week, but she estimated the amount was already higher than last year.
Jack Lynch, an event volunteer, said he's been coming to the cook-off for more than 20 years. During that time, the event has grown from a small group of friends to a community-wide event.
Reichart said he also tried to expand the event by turning to social media in addition to traditional means.
"This is something we want to get the entire community involved with," he said. "Anyway we can get the word out. We're hoping we can make it even bigger in the future."
But ultimately, it's still about the chili. The event handed out first, second and third place judged prizes, a fireman's award based on spiciness and a people's choice award.
Charles Copus of Elwood said he's been attending the event for years, and nearly all the entries put a good product out for tasting. He said he had a few favorites, including the Community Parkview Care Center, which took home first place and the people's choice award.
"There's a lot of good chili out here," Copus said, "and this is a fun event."
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Winners at 2013 Elwood Red Gold Chili Fest Judged awards First place: Community Parkview Health Care Second place: Wilkey's Third place: Schimmel's team Fireman chili award (awarded for hottest chili) -- Our Wild'n'Wacky Chili People's choice award -- Community Parkview Health Care