Weather Forecast


United Way: Chili Cook-off kicks off $405K campaign goal

Nellie Cameron, left, bravely tastes the Blue Ox Tail Chili made by First Reality’s staff as Chelse Cermak and Mandy Gazelka serve up a bowl. Thirty-two cooks prepared chili for the 21st Annual United Way Chili Cook-Off on Wednesday afternoon. MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER

BEMIDJI – The United Way of Bemidji Area has set a $405,000 goal for its 26th annual campaign for the community and Wednesday proved to be a successful start.

Thirty-two cooks lined the halls of the Paul Bunyan Mall during lunchtime for the United Way of Bemidji Area’s Chili Cook-Off.

More than 400 people attended the event, which featured specialty chili recipes to appeal to a variety of tastes, and generated $2,832 for this year’s campaign.

In addition, campaign vice chair Brian Bissonette announced United Way Pillar members and nine Pacesetter businesses had combined to raise $191,524 – about 47 percent of the campaign’s goal – for the effort so far.

Pacesetter businesses start workplace campaigns early for United Way’s annual effort. This year’s Pacesetter businesses, which have raised $156,949 to date, are AmeriPride Services, Beltrami Electric Cooperative, First National Bank Bemidji, JCPenney, North Country Business Products, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, RiverWood Bank, Target and United Parcel Service (UPS).

Pillar members are recognized for giving $500 or more annually to support the United Way in Bemidji. This year’s Pillar members have raised more than $34,574 for the Bemidji United Way.

Five celebrity Chili Cook-Off judges – Arlene Billberg of Marketplace Foods, Andrea Ohnstad of the Boys and Girls Club of Bemidji Area, Lori Paris of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Jackson of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and Jen Hiltz of Pinnacle Publishing –judged chili recipes based on the aroma, taste, texture, appearance and creativity.

The following awards were given to chili cooks:

First Place Celebrity Division Chili – R.P. Broadcasting

First Place Business Division Chili – Elite Performance and Fitness

First Place Restaurant Division Chili – Cabin Coffeehouse

First Place Corporate Division Chili – Paul Bunyan Communications

First Place Non-Profit Division Chili – Evergreen Youth & Family Services

Most Creative Chili Cook Award – Kraus Anderson Construction

Best Presentation Award – BSU Foundation

Best Name Award – Paul Bunyan Broadcasting for its Lip Licking Lumberjack Chili

Taster’s Choice – North Country Business Products

Best Overall Chili Award – Eldercare of Bemidji

The United Way campaign for the community runs through Oct. 31.

Funds are invested in Bemidji area non-profit agencies and programs that address the root-causes of the most serious human needs in our community and create real, lasting change in people’s lives, in the areas of education, income, and health.

In 2011, the United Way’s campaign raised $392,000.

For more information about the United Way, the campaign or to make a donation, call (218) 444-8929 or visit the United Way’s website