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Chili Contest, Motorcycle Show – 16th Annual Great Lakes Regional Chili Cook-Off

Enjoying weather that was more August than October, an estimated 20,000 people visited downtown Plymouth Sunday for the Great Lakes Regional Chili Cookoff.

The 16th annual festival, which netted around $40,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Western Wayne County, featured a motorcycle show, performances by dance troupes, live music by Steve King and the Dittilies, vendors’ booths — and chili: 90 different varieties in five competition categories.

The crowd went through more than 50,000 samples of chili, according to organizers Annette and Ken Horn.

“It was the smoothest-running event so far,” said Annette Horn, board president of Great Lakes Chili Inc., the nonprofit that runs the festival. “It’s one of the most fun days of the fall season for us, even though it is crazy and hectic.”

The chili ran out shortly before the event’s official 5 p.m. closing time.

“Usually a restaurant here and there will have some chili left, but we absolutely ran dry,” said Horn.

Returning cooks took some of the top honors in the cookoff at The Gathering.

“They’re getting a little tired of me here,” joked Richard Chauvin of Windsor after picking up his first-place award, in International Chili Society competition, for chili verde, or green chili.

It was the third straight chili verde win for Chauvin, who was fresh from the Oct. 1 ICS world championship in Manchester, N.H., where he (and about 140 other chili verde cooks) lost to Gary Ray of Livonia.

With his win Sunday, Chauvin, a master cook in both green and red chili, is guaranteed a spot in next fall’s world championship.

People’s choice

By contrast, Ron Smith of Novi took home top honors in the people’s choice category, a non-ICS competition, after competing in the Plymouth festival for the first time.

Smith had whipped up a little more than 10 gallons of his white chicken chili.

“This is great,” said Smith. “I know I have a popular chili, but it never dawned on me I would win the people’s choice.”

Smith is also a member of the Motor City HOG (Harley Owners Group) at Motor City Harley-Davidson in Farmington Hills, which sponsored one of two “chili rides” of motorcyclists into downtown Plymouth. The events — the other chili ride was sponsored by Dick Scott Classic Motorcycles in Livonia — brought about 400 motorcycles rumbling into town, the Horns said.

In addition, there were 146 motorcycles, parked on Ann Arbor Trail between Union and Main, in the festival’s motorcycle show, in which prizes were awarded in 18 categories. Motorcycle-related events raised money for the Penrickton Center for Blind Children in Taylor, and the proceeds were still being counted up Tuesday, Annette Horn said.

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