CORVALLIS — The participants on one of the teams dressed up as chickens to promote their chicken chili. Another team’s members dressed as hillbillies and decorated their booth with a beer can wind chime. Another team dressed more simply, such as wearing Benton County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse shirts and blue jeans.
These were just a few of the 13 teams participating in the Benton County Sheriff’s Office Chili Cook-Off Sunday afternoon. The event, at the Benton County Fairgrounds, was the 10th such cook-off and proceeds went to the posse and funding canine units for local law enforcement.
Nicole Beachboard, who created the event and has organized it all 10 years, said over the years it has raised more than $115,000 for local charities.
“It’s fabulous. This has gotten bigger than I ever dreamed possible,” she said.
The Philomath Police Department was among those competing again this year and the group won the top fundraiser award by bringing in over $601.11 with its raffle of a Ruger 10-22 Takedown Special Edition donated by the Philomath Gun Shop.
Philomath's team featured police chief Ken Rueben and officers Mark Koeppe, Grant Moser and Kevin Frahm. The team was third in booth design. The Philomath PD's entry featured its traditional no-bean Texas chili.
Beachboard said she has a lot of friends in law enforcement and has volunteered with law enforcement agencies for years.
“My goal is to get local law enforcement out in the community in a very positive light. It’s me paying it forward for the friends I have lost in the line of duty,” she said.
Tina Tulley, of Albany, attended the event last year the first time and said she returned this year because it is a good family event.
“It gets people familiar and comfortable with (law enforcement),” she said. “It puts personality and a face with a badge.”
Delani Ball, a Benton County Jail employee, said people may not realize that people in law enforcement have lives and identities beyond their work, but the event helps counteract that.
“It shows the community and citizens we’re everyday people too,” she said.
Niki Kelley, also a jail employee, agreed.
“When people think jail or law enforcement it’s usually in the negative, but the positive introduction is invaluable.”
Beachboard said she’s looking forward to continuing the event next year and making it bigger than ever.