Grifton chili cookoff raises spirits, funds for Shad Festival

February 8, 2024

GRIFTON — An annual chili cook-off in town drew some spirited competition and raised a lot of community spirit as well as money for the Grifton Shad Festival.

The Grifton Shad Festival Committee hosted the third annual event on Oct. 28 at Grifton Train Depot. Eighteen contestants supplied their own cooking utensils and ingredients and set up as early as 1 p.m. By 3 p.m. the smell of chili was all in the air and each contestant seemed very confident and excited about their chances of wowing the crowd with their entries.

“There is a variety of different kinds of chili smelling good out here, we’ve got white chicken chili right down to your traditional chili, and everyone is really pumped up,” said Shad Festival Committee Vice President Tyra Sparrow.

Katherine Wilson with The Grifton Lions said it was their second time competing.

“We are here to represent our community and to show people what the Grifton Lions Club is about,” said Wilson. “We’re trying a new recipe. I hope it’s delicious and I hope it’s good, but it sure does smell good.”

Debbie Albritton said that her husband is a lifelong Grifton resident and that she chose to participate to step out of her comfort zone by showcasing her White Bean Chicken Chili.

“This is a great community, I came from Alaska and took a wrong turn, and here I am,” said Albritton. “It’s more like a nacho chili with cream cheese, Rotel tomatoes, green chilies, white beans, with chicken, and I’m hoping this rocks the People’s Choice Award.”

Sharon Marshburn is from Walstonburg. It’s her second time competing in the chili cook-off.

“My family is staying in the campground here in Grifton. It’s an awesome place, we enjoy coming out and helping the community and it’s really a family-friendly town,” said Marshburn. “We’re keeping it simple with hamburger, tomatoes, tomato sauce, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a little bit of everything.”

Danny Foss came in third place at the in the fesitval’s fish stew cook-off this year and said is his first time competing in the chili cook-off.

“I’m using my fish stew pot, I just cleaned it out and put chili in it, but there’s beans, burger, and little dabs of spices here and there so we’ll see what it tastes like,” said Foss.

Kiya Whorlow is another first-time competitor. Originally from Colorado, she said that she’s lived in Grifton for three years and loves being part of the community.

“I know a lot of these people from baseball, so I figured, why not come out and have some fun,” said Whorlow. “My chili is a Texas Southwestern style with a Colorado twist. It’s got hatch green chilies, a dash of cinnamon, and brown sugar.”

Shannon Casper said she participated last year and she loved it and was so excited to do it again this year.

“I love making chili, my family loves my chili, I enjoy feeding my people, I just love that they love it. It just encourages me, so I want to share it with everybody,” said Casper. “I use ground beef, chili seasonings, fresh peppers and onions, and add a little bit of something special in there to give it a kick with my own little touch of love.”

Mayor of Farmville and broadcaster John Moore was the emcee for the event, and the judges N.C. Rep. Tim Reeder, the owner of Mali’s Coffee Shop in Grifton, Tionna Nelson, and local journalist and correspondent Beyonca Mewborn.

A large crowd gathered for the event, which included a car show by the Backyard Bandits and Carolina Classic Cruisers car clubs amd musical entertainment from the band Lizzy and Friends. Visitors were able to buy samples of the chili and vote for their favorite. The festival committee also sold tickets for the 50/50 raffle. The event more than $2,000 after awarding prizes for chili and $400 to raffle winner Monica Foss.

“The first-place winner is going to get $350, our second-place winner gets $150, and this year we are so thankful to have partnered up with Agri Supply of Greenville, who donated a Carolina Cooker that is going the People’s Choice Award winner, and they’ve donated a cutting board and knife set going to the best decorated booth winner,” said Sparrow.

“We have a fire extinguisher from A1 Safety and Fire Company going to the spiciest chili winner, and we’re also grateful to Food Pride of Grifton for being one of our sponsors too,” said Sparrow.

Shannon Casper won best decorated booth, Bryan Cawley won Spiciest Chili, Ricky Barrow won People’s Choice, Devon Snyder won second place and Richard Crumbacker took home the first-place prize.

The committee partnered with Grifton First Responders to host a Trunk or Treat in conjunction with the event. The feedback from the community was the event was one of the best and they hope that it becomes a new tradition, Sparrow said.

Grifton’s Interim Police Chief Deric Dennis said that the event was a huge success, and Grifton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Justin Johnson said that they were really impressed with the turnout and hope to collaborate with the Shad Festival committee to do it again next year.

“It is so important for our community to come out and see just how hard we must work to put on the Shad Festival each year, and in past years we’ve always done chicken plate fundraisers and things like that — you come and get it and you go on about your business,” said Sparrow. “Here at our chili cook off you’re given the opportunity to mingle with everybody that’s involved with the Shad Festival, and you’re a part of it by being a part of the event.”

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