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American Legion Post Hosts Tasty Chili Cook-Off
The top three in the chili cook-off all received prizes for their efforts on Saturday, Oct. 16. From left, second place winner Jean Tavares; champion Allan Lial; third place winner Melinda Garcia. Marg Jackson/The Times

In their final monthly dinner gathering of the year, members of the Escalon American Legion Post hosted a chili cook-off on Saturday, Oct. 16.

There were eight different varieties of chili entered, from a few mild offerings to a couple that raised the heat index a bit.

Legion member Al Bellinger said the cook-off was planned as the final Saturday night dinner for this year, with a number of community members invited to join in the fun.

The third Saturday dinners are held for several months during the year. November, however, features the annual Veterans’ Day luncheon put on by the Legion Post and December is the annual Post party so there are no monthly dinners those months. Bellinger said the dinners are slated to resume in January, 2022 with ‘Soups and Stews’ night.

For the chili cook-off, a panel of judges taste tested and conferred, awarding first through third place honors.

Takin first place was Allan Lial, who entered the spiciest chili of the eight.

“I grow all my own peppers, tomatoes,” Lial said of using fresh ingredients.

He also credited his wife Diane with providing plenty of guidance along the way as he put together the tasty dish.

“I have a salsa that I make called ‘pray for snow, pray for rain’ and I put that in there too,” he said of turning up the heat.

Taking second place was Jean Tavares and third place went to Melinda Garcia.

Prizes awarded were: four tickets to the Veterans’ Day Dinner for first place; a 12-pack of beer for second place and a bottle of Zac Brown wine for third place.

Some of the dinners this year have included an Italian night, a fish fry and the most recent chili cook-off. A big crowd was on hand at the Legion building on Second Street to enjoy chili with toppings including cheese, onions, corn chips, sour cream and – if desired – hot sauce – along with bread corn muffins, fruit, beverages and a wide variety of desserts.

A few classic cars were also brought in and put on display, so attendees could enjoy looking at them before or after they got their dinner.

Escalon on-duty firefighters were among the invited guests coming to enjoy the chili cook-off hosted Saturday at the Escalon American Legion Post. Here, firefighter Mark Bennett, right, has some extra cheese applied to his bowl of chili by Legion member George ‘Pineapple’ Tavares as fellow firefighter Alonzo Teixeira, center, looks on. Marg Jackson/The Times
A few classic cars were parked in the Second Street lot near the Escalon American Legion Post building on Saturday, available for viewing by attendees at the evening’s chili cook-off hosted by the local post. Marg Jackson/The Times