Locals can warm their bellies while donating to a good cause at the upcoming 2018 Auburn Chili Cook-Off to benefit Storybook Farm.

This year will be the first chili cook-off event to benefit the nonprofit organization that uses horses for therapy to help children facing special needs. Rusty Prewett is the head of the fundraising committee on the Storybook Farm board of directors and had the idea for the new fundraiser.

“We were looking for ways to come up with some different fundraising ideas,” Prewett said. “I’ve wanted to actually host a chili cook-off for probably the last four or five years, we just haven’t put it together because of some other events we’ve done. When I lived in Birmingham, there was a big one up there they do every year, so we’re trying to bring something like that to Auburn.”

Three different sponsorship packages are available to participate in the March 3 cook-off that range from $1,000 to $5,000. Many local businesses have challenged one another to participate. Prewett said 20 spots are available and about half are taken. Businesses participating so far include MAX Credit Union, Allstate Insurance Agent: Prewett Insurance Group, and The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center.

The Hotel at Auburn University held a preliminary chili cook-off event at the hotel Sunday and two culinary team members, Derrick Walton and Annie Cooks, won the chance to compete in the Auburn Chili Cook-Off event. Allison Duke, marketing and social media manager for The Hotel at Auburn University, said the hotel has worked with Storybook Farm for some time.

“The hotel has been working with their organization for over 15 years and we love helping bring awareness to their cause,” Duke said. “It is also a fun event members of our team will get to be a part of since Derrick and Annie will be serving their winning chili!”

Duke added that the two employees participating in the cook-off have years of experience in the hotel’s banquet kitchen.

“If you’ve ever had Ms. Annie’s fried chicken, which was featured in Garden & Gun Magazine, you should know her chili is just as good,” she said.

A Chili Cook-Off Champion Award from the judges and a People’s Choice Award will be awarded at the event.

“That’s not just for the taste of the chili,” Prewett said of the People’s Choice Award. “It could be the theme of the chili, it could be the team spirit for the team putting it together. We want them to have fun with it.”

Judges for the event include Chef Jeff Compton of Acre, Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes, Judge Jim McLaughlin, and pediatric dentist Dr. George Liles.

The chili cook-off will also feature a kid’s zone, live music, food trucks, adult beverages and more. Prewett said the fundraising goal for the event is $20,000.

The Auburn Chili Cook-Off will take place on March 3 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ag Heritage Park in Auburn. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free. For more information or tickets, visit AuburnALChiliCookoff.com.

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