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There was no better way for local firefighters to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 than by spending time with their colleagues and communities at the Big Chili Cook-Off. At least, that was how …
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1st Place - Clint Sayler – Platte Canyon Fire Department - 5 x winner (time 2 minutes)
2nd Place – Chris Volek – Evergreen Fire Rescue (time 2 min 8 sec)
1st Pam Podiak – “Pam’s Wild Wild West”
2nd James Anderson (Evergreen Fire/Rescue) – “Rockin Red”
3rd Charles Elliott (Elk Creek Fire Department) – “Charlie’s Cowboy Red”
1st Brian Himmelman (Himmelman State Farm) - “Change Your Khakis Green”
2nd John Sherry (LeaderOne Financial Mortgage) – “Back Draft Green”
3rd Steve Farland (The Chairman) – “Chairman of the Board”
1st Larry Edwards – “Larry’s Veggie Bonanza”
2nd Tiffany Lockwood – Coldwell Banker – “Veggiepalooza”
3rd Charles Elliott (Elk Creek Fire Department) – “Conifer Mountain Veggie”
Red – Taylor Jansen (Lariat Lodge Brewing Co) - “Lodge Podge Red”
Green – Evan Lambardi (Clear Creek Cidery & Eatery) - “OH-MY-GAWD Green”
Veggie – Shirley Giovarelli (Brookdale Arvada) – “Mama Gio’s Verde Vegetali”
Best Fire Department Chili – John Porter – Evergreen Fire/Rescue – “Evergreen Fire Red 2”
Red – Dustin Kruse (Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center) – “Mmmmmmeaty Red Chili”
Green – Barry Himmelman (Himmelman Construction) – “Morning After Blues Green Pork Chili”
Veggie – Larry Edwards - “Larry’s Veggie Bonanza”
Showmanship – Coldwell Banker
There was no better way for local firefighters to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 than by spending time with their colleagues and communities at the Big Chili Cook-Off.
At least, that was how Evergreen Fire/Rescue firefighter Chris Voleck felt.
“I think there's no better way than the American way — neighbors helping neighbors,” he said. “And that's what we're doing here.”
Thousands of people turned out for Saturday's Big Chili Cook-Off, the annual event that benefits six local fire departments. The event was canceled last year because of COVID-19, but returned to Evergreen's Buchanan Field in style.
This year's event featured eight booths run by first responder agencies and 33 by restaurants, businesses, groups of friends, and families.
Proceeds from the event are split evenly among the Elk Creek, Evergreen, Indian Hills, Inter-Canyon, North Fork and Platte Canyon fire departments. They typically use the funds, which has been as much as $7,000 each, to buy much-needed equipment.
Evergreen firefighter Stacee Martin and Marc Rosenberg, Indian Hills' deputy chief, said their departments could use this year's revenues to buy wildland firefighting resources. Meanwhile, Elk Creek's Logistics Chief Scott Aaronson said his department might use some of it for recruiting and training.
John Gleason, Platte Canyon's volunteer assistant chief, said Big Chili was sorely missed last year, as it always helps out the local departments tremendously. For fire departments in the rural area, budgets are tough, he explained.
Beyond the proceeds, the event is also important community-building. It's a rare opportunity for firefighters to see each other outside of an emergency, and for firefighters to see their community members as well, Gleason explained.
“This event, for us, is a highlight of the activities that we do,” he said, adding that Bailey Days the other one. “ … It's family. We want to keep that close-knit community thing going.”
Rosenberg said he's attended Big Chili 18 years, saying he missed one while he was in Wisconsin and then last year's was canceled. He's seen the event grow from its spot by Evergreen Lake, and turn into one of the community's biggest events of the year.
“It doesn't get any better (than Big Chili),” he said. “If we did this event every weekend, that'd be fine with me.”
`It really does hit home'
While the day and event were both wonderful, the firefighters reflected on the somber elements of the day, including their 343 brothers and sisters who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
Rosenberg described how firefighters have something akin to tunnel vision during emergencies — their only thought is to save the people, structure or land that's in danger.
“That's all we think about when we go on calls,” he said. “ … I feel sorry for everyone that lost their lives and got sick afterwards. But if it happens again, they'd do it all over again. That's what's bred into firefighters.”
Rosenberg and Martin both said that any of the local firefighters would've done the same as their colleagues did on 9/11; because, no matter the call, time of day or weather, firefighters go where they're needed.
“I know that these guys would do it; we're here for each other,” Martin said, adding that mutual aid is critical among local agencies.
Gleason described how Elk Creek firefighters saved his house during 2000's Hi Meadow Fire, which inspired him to join Platte Canyon.
“I wanted to give back to what they did for me,” he continued.
By 2001, Gleason was a rookie and Aaronson was in the firefighter academy, and they both recalled how much 9/11 impacted them and their colleagues.
“It's hard to describe the feelings that you have about those terrible losses,” Aaronson said. “ … It really does hit home. But, it's important thing to remember how it brought us together — a common purpose, being kind and doing good by their neighbors.”
Rosenberg said that he will never forget 9/11, and just as local firefighting agencies will keep going, he hopes that Big Chili keeps going too.
“It was horrific tragedy that happened, but yet the country united so much after that,” he continued. “I think that's what this event does. It unites the public with the firefighters, and the firefighters with each other.”
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