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Rotary Chili Feast on Saturday

Highlands is preparing for its annual tradition of the Rotary Club’s Chili Feast, to be held this Saturday from 11 to 3 at St. Jude’s Catholic Church social hall at 808 S. Main Street in Highlands.

Almost one thousand people will attend, and the Rotarians will cook their famous “Chester’s Chili” under the direction of Johnny Gaeke. This delicious recipe is only one of the delights that folks look forward to annually for the last 34 years. There are great prizes in the raffle, and silent and live auctions with lots of bargains.

One of the secrets of success for this event is the limited draw raffle. Only 600 tickets are made available at a donation of $100, and prizes include a new Chevrolet Silverado Pickup truck and 13 other prizes worth more than the price of the ticket. Other prizes include a digital camera, Gift Cards of $100, $200, and $300, a home theater system, a power tool combo, camcorder, Nintendo Wii Game Station, GPS System, Shotgun, Gas Grille, Laptop computer, and 32” LCD TV.

The Rotary Club uses the proceeds from the Chili Feast to fund their community projects, scholarships, and contributions to Worldwide programs such as Polio Plus through the Rotary Foundation.

Last year, the club was able to award 16 scholarships in the total amount of $26,000 to local students for their college expenses. Other community projects that the club has supported include the Highlands Fire Department,the basketball pavilion, Rotary Foundation programs in health and humanitarian causes, Highlands Sports Association and Little League, Boy Scouts, Stratford Library, Community Center, Senior Citizens, Mother’s Day Out, Highlands Jamboree, Highlands Horizons Pageant, Sheriff ’s storefront, Chinquapin School, FFA/4-H, American Diabetes Association, St. Jude’s Church, Highlands Food Pantry, Hurricane Relief, and many more.

The tradition of the Chili Feast started in 1976, and interest and proceeds built up over the years, but the first auto was not raffled until 1983. In that year, a Cadillac was won by local resident Gladys Burton.

The Chili Feast is a club and community effort, with many groups helping out. This includes the Interact Clubs from Chinquapin and Memorial High School, the Boy Scouts, and all the Club members and their families. The cooking is done by volunteers, including the famous Henderson cooking team, under the watchful eye of senior Rotarian Chester Stasney, who has been in charge of the cooking process for most of the years. Cooking of the chili is done in a special trailer with 4 pots built for the purpose, and rebuilt and replaced over the years.

In addition to local citizens and Rotarians, the event usually brings out politicians and government officials, and others of note in the area. This year, Congressman Ted Poe has agreed to pull the first ticket in the raffle, at 1 pm on Saturday. Also expected to be on hand are Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, Constable Ken Jones, Judge Parrott and Judge Polumbo, and usually some sports figures and school dignitaries, as well as corporate sponsors.

Tickets for the Chili Feast are $7 for lunch, or $100 for the raffle and two lunches. They are available from all Rotarians, and most local businesses such as Woodforest Bank, Crosby Bank, and Foodtown Market.

Participating Rotarians include president Patricia Scott, president elect Robert Woodall, who is the Chili Feast Chair, past president Charlie Ward, and club members Betty Brewer, Aaron Cole, Stefe Cochran, Weston Cotten, Robert Creel, Mathew Forastiere, Johnny Gaeke, Raymond Gonzalez, Teresa Griffith, Tom Hill, Gilbert Hoffman, Michelle Lomazoff, Steve Miller, Alton Neatherlin, Jeremy Rosenkranz, Denise Smith, Chester Stasney, Dr. Larry White, Lisa Vickers.