Chili heats up at Veterans Center Cook-Off challenge


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Don Pearsall is chairman of the Brevard Veterans Council.

Senior Life photo

The weather usually begins cooling down in September, but not at the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center, where a Chili Cook-Off will sizzle palates Sept. 21.

The Cook-Off will pit chili-making first responders with veterans, relative newcomers in the chili kitchen. The event should provide proof whether or not firefighters, paramedics and police make the best chili. Don Pearsall, chairman of the Brevard Veterans Council, thinks otherwise.

“Firehouse chili takes a back seat to what these former warriors can create,” said Pearsall, who along with American Legion Auxiliary Unit 344 president Dorothy Walsh, will orchestrate the Cook-Off.

Last year, it was the American Legion against the Veterans of Foreign Wars teams; the Legion snagged the top-chili trophy.

“This year, we decided to join forces and challenge the first responders,” said Walsh, who is pumped to bring first responders’ cooking egos down a notch.

The 2018 Cook-Off drew approximately 1,000 chili fans. At least that many people are expected at the 2019 event, scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Veterans Memorial Center and Museum.

Besides the camaraderie and the tastings, the Cook-Off serves a serious purpose. Officially called “Brevard Honors Veterans — Wreaths Across America,” the event will raise funds to make sure every veterans’ grave in every one of the 83 private, community and church cemeteries across Brevard will have a wreath or floral spray for Christmas. Proceeds from the Cook-Off, together with private donations, will fund the graveside project.

“Our motto is “we may not know all of them, but we sure do owe all of them,” said Pearsall, a Vietnam War veteran.

The Cook-Off is open to all veterans’ organizations and first responders, as well as to restaurants or individuals. Vendors are welcome. Registration is $10 for chili cooks. For-profit vendor registration is $15 and $10 for nonprofit groups.

Popular disc jockey Doc Holiday has volunteered to add music to the recipe for a great day. Attendees are encouraged to tour the free military museum and stroll the grounds of the center at 400 S. Sykes Creek Parkway on Merritt Island.

Prizes will be awarded in several categories, including most festive chili-themed booth. There is also a fishing competition for children up to age 12 (bring your own tackle).

“This event is taking on a life of its own,” Walsh said.

For more information or to register, call 321-313-2444 or 321-426-6736.