Jackie Rice has a goal for Saturday — add to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Harvey County collection of "Pride of the Prairie" awards.
There are three, displayed prominently in the organization's office. The award is given by judges during the annual United Way Chili Cook-Off — this year from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the 100 block of East Sixth.
"It is great fun," Rice said. "We have a great time with this."
Rice and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Harvey County have participated in the cook-off every year — this will be the seventh.
She has cooked traditional chili, a chili verde (containing pork, rather than beef) and a white duck chili. This year the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Harvey County booth, one of about 20 representing United Way partner agencies and nearly 30 overall, will fix two different recipes.
And while she wants another "Pride of the Prairie" award for the office — she has other reasons for being part of the annual event.
"This is different than fund-raising for our organization," Rice said. "We do get funds from United Way, but they fund more than 20 other organizations. This is how we can have a hand in helping all of those organizations as well."
Now in year seven, the event has grown nearly every year. Rice points out that in year one, most booths prepared one roaster of chili — about three gallons. This year each booth is asked to cook nine gallons of chili.
That growth is the result of the work of sponsors Prairie Harvest and Petitjean Whitfield and Associates. In the early years, each partner organization was asked to sell a few tickets in advance — and that has continued. The event was built primarily around the chili offerings of partner organizations.
This year the event will also feature about 10 "open class" participants — area businesses and individuals will compete with the likes of the Sheriff's Department, Newton Fire/EMS and Newton Police in the open class. Open class is for non United Way partner organizations.
And about 1,000 people are expected to come and taste chili — voting for their favorites by donating to the United Way at each booth.
"Sales are going well and there are still some tickets out there," said Mike Petitjean, one of the event organizers. "The chili cook-off has raised awareness for United Way and the agencies, and this is a neat event that brings people together."
Rice said part of the allure of the event is the chance to sample dozens of different chills, all for a $5 advance ticket. She also said part of the allure is having an event downtown for people to go to.
But she never has lost focus of the true goals — raise funds for the United Way which provides 11 percent of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Harvey County budget, and call attention to all the organizations United Way funds.
"I love that it calls attention to United Way and all the organizations it serves," Rice said. "People forget United Way offers support to thousands of individuals. When you give $1 to United Way, you help a lot of people."