Thousands turns out for food, fun and entertainment
Esmeralda Ramirez steadily spooned in heaping helpings of chili as she sat with her parents at the Havelock Chili Festival on Saturday.
“It’s really good,” said the 11-year-old from New Bern.
Ramirez was one of several thousand that came out Saturday for the Havelock Chili Festival at Walter B. Jones Park in Havelock. A comparable number of people gathered Friday night for the opening day of the event, which featured the chicken wing competition. The hungry crowd scarfed up 13,000 wings on Friday night
“When we told her last night that she was going to the chili festival, she jumped on the bed and screamed,” said Esmeralda’s mother Natasha Ramirez. “We love our chili.”
Esmeralda’s father, Staff Sgt Hector Ramirez, a Camp Lejeune Marine, was formerly stationed at Cherry Point, so the family was familiar with Havelock’s annual fundraising event.
“I was in MACG-28,” Ramirez said. “I think it’s awesome. I love it here, not to mention the spicier the better.”
The Havelock Chamber of Commerce sponsors the annual event, which raises money for a number of Havelock-area charities and organizations, and crowns the state’s top chili cook
Everyone has an opinion about which chili is the best.
Karla Liner, of Havelock, made up her mind early on, settling on Brice’s Creek Bible Church.
“It was really, really good,” she said. “It’s not even our church, and it’s still good.”
Gene Gongaware zeroed in on Craven Community College’s creation.
“I would definitely eat of bowl of this,” he said. “It’s better than the other ones I had. This is only the second one I’ve had, so there’s not much to judge against.”
Cook Wendy Doubles, of Newport, was happy that folks kept coming back to get more.
“I’ve got a lot of repeat customers. I’ve been real pleased with that,” said Doubles. “The only time I really want to sell out is just to sit down for a bit.”
Alice Ellis, of Newport, identified her favorite as that made by Annunciation Catholic Church.
“I think they’ve got the best chili,” Ellis said. “It’s got substance. It’s got flavor. It’s got zing, without too much heat. It’s holy chili.”
Kaelyn Swanner, 11, of Havelock, was among the many who volunteered to make the event a success. Swanner wore a sandwich board on her front and back touting the funnel cake for the Junior Civitans of Tucker Creek branch.
“I think it’s really fun,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that are going on. There are drinks, music, jumpy houses, cars and lots of food, just a time to come together and have fun.”
Lance Cpl. Aaron Keller, of Marine Training Attack Squadron 203, at Cherry Point, was there with wife Alli Keller and son Ian Keller.
“We love it,” the Marine said. “It’s our favorite festival because there is so much chili.”
The weather certainly cooperated on both days, with a cool Friday night and a mild, sunny Saturday.
“This is cool,” said Andy Munn, of Gainesville, Fla. “You couldn’t ask for a better day for a chili festival.”