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Bob Berdahl, whose chili earned the 'People's Favorite' award, will be back this year with a pot of wild game chili. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Calling all chili chefs!

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The Park Rapids Enterprise is hosting the fourth annual Chili Challenge as a kick-off for the Hubbard County Food Shelf food- and fundraising drive.

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The event will be held over the noon hour Wednesday, March 6 at the Park Rapids American Legion.

Teams, individuals, businesses, civic organizations and church groups are invited to cook up a pot of chili, recruit samplers and serve the concoction.

Throw down the gauntlet to your competition.

Whacky works. We're looking to tickle funny bones and taste buds.

Like the Dorset democracy, a buck buys a vote for the coveted "People's Choice" award.

Chili samplers will donate a dollar per dollop (small cupful) of chili. Ballot box stuffing is welcome. Pre-event "votes" ($$) solicitation is legal and encouraged.

The chili chef/s earning top votes (money-wise) will gain celebrity status and a "People Choice" plaque. Melodie Lincowski claimed this last year with her "Third Planet from the Sun" chili.

The chef claiming tops in taste bud tantalizing will earn People's Favorite commendations, Bob Berdahl hoping to reclaim the distinction again this year.

Names for the merry medley of spices, beans and meat/poultry/game or vegetarian are encouraged.

Musician Fran Gack is returning to entertain.

Bob Landrigan has worked his wizardry on wood to create a loon for the raffle drawing and

the Crazy Quilters have donated an exquisitely crafted quilt.

A decadent, delectable array of chocolates will cap the event, created by Enterprise chocolatiers.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Hubbard County Food Shelf.

While the tone will be lighthearted, the mission holds gravity.

Food shelf coordinator Dave Long reports usage continues to rise. The total pounds distributed in 2012 were up 10 percent. And 4,172 family visits were made to the food shelf, up 13 percent from the previous year.

The "working poor" is the primary client, Long said.

The amount of food and funds raised in March is the basis for Minnesota FoodShare funding, so the greater the donations, the greater the amount of funding. The food shelf also applies for the Feinstein grant; that too is based on food and dollars raised in March and April.

Families and individuals may request aid once a month.

Become a conquistador of hunger!

Chili chefs are asked to arrive with pots of chili (two gallons, please) by 10:30 a.m. March 6. Serving utensils will be provided. Crock pots or chaffers, please, no roasters as they draw too much power. An auxiliary pot can be warmed in the kitchen.

Creativity is a key ingredient.

Last year's event raised $8,000 for the food shelf and hopes are high for another successful feed.

For more information or to sign up as a beanefactor (a.k.a chili chef) contact Jean at the Enterprise, 732-3364, or jruzicka@parkrapids enterprise.com.

Registration forms with day-of-the-event info will also be available at the Enterprise.

A "flexible" registration deadline of Wednesday, Feb. 20 has been set.

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