He just went for a good time, and he scored big.
Jim McNiff won first place in the Dearing Chili Cook-Off Saturday night. Mr. McNiff said he and his wife, Betty, live in Marietta, Ga., part-time and in Dearing.
"My wife's cousin came here last year and was talking about what a good time they had. So I said, 'Well, we'll go and do it this year,'" Mr. McNiff said.
The new top chili chef admitted he had to give the cousin, Nan Tam, even more credit -- it was her recipe he used.
"She gave it to me years ago. and I modified it a little bit," he said. "So I told her I'll cut the certificate in half and share it with her."
Stephen Morris took second place, and Phil McCorkle placed third out of the nine entries.
About 75 people attended the fourth annual event held at Dearing Elementary School and put on by the Dearing Mayfest Committee. This year's event brought in about $1,000. Proceeds will go to the Good Samaritan House, a free or reduced-cost medical clinic for the needy in Dearing's community.
Sandy Turner, the director of the Medical College of Georgia's nurse practitioner program, which runs the clinic, said the money raised last year was used to give free flu shots and to do lab tests. Dr. Turner said the clinic treats 20 to 40 patients each Monday afternoon. Services are provided by nurse practitioner student volunteers and volunteers from Dearing Baptist Church and Church of Our Savior in Martinez.
"We are having three to seven new patients every week now," Dr. Turner said. "More and more people are losing their insurance and not having access to good health care."
The chili cook-off was originated by the town's Relay For Life team as a way to raise funds for cancer research. When the team captain stepped down and McDuffie County took a break from participating in the relay, Mayor Sean Kelley said he would like the cook-off to continue because it was good for the community. So the Mayfest Committee took it over. Each year, the committee raises funds to better the town of Dearing.
Jake Street won first place in the soup category, with Myra Menees placing second and Olly Axon taking third.
In the stew category, first place went to Claudia Kelley, second place to Gladys Rodgers and third place to Barbara Blanton.
Judges scored the entries on aroma, appearance, texture and taste. Judges were: Jason Smith, with the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall, McDuffie Fire/Rescue Assistant Chief Stephen Sewell, Dearing Fire Chief Danny Cason, Dearing Elementary School Principal Nancy Lovelady, The Old Frontier Director Chris Smith, McDuffie Progress staff writer Danielle Everson and Morris News Service writer Lynn Davidson.