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Willys & Jeep, Rally Round Chili Cook-Off

PHOTO: T.A. Graydon - NewsPlus

Kevin Nunez with his 1962 Willys truck

Two major events kept the town of Wrightwood bustling on Saturday, October 15, 2022, with the 19th Annual Willys and Jeep Rally and the fiery Chili Cook-Off and Salsa Sampling contest. Lining the streets were Jeeps and Willys vehicles on display with their owners ready to discuss all things Jeep. “The Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-Off hits the spot on so many levels.” event host Leslie Chesebrough Mihalko stated. “A bonus is the Willys and Jeep rally along Park Dr. There is something for everyone,” she added.

Great crowd this year for the 19th Annual Chili Cook-off and Willys Jeep Rally

Mountain High Resorts once again sponsored the Corn Hole Tournament sharing the Community building parking area with at least a dozen Chili Cook-Off competitors on a beautiful San Gabriel Mountains day. Luke and Chase Cooper of team “The Squad” took first place in the Cornhole games, chanting their motto, “We sink, and we drink!” One Cornhole spectator was a little excited about the fierce competition. “This whole block wall was full of spectators, and this one was the most exciting game we have seen!” Debbie Eikmeier from Menefee, CA, said with outstretched arms.

Kevin Nunez, a powerlifter from Azusa who now resides in Wrightwood, was visiting his mother and the new Jeep she was showing on Cedar St., mentioned he owned a tan 1962 Willys truck on display over on Park Drive. This interview took a walk downtown through what seemed like hundreds of Jeeps and Willys vehicles of all shapes and sizes. When we got to Kevin’s historical truck, he explained, “What got me interested in the Willys trucks is that I have twelve family members that served in World War 2, and my grandfather used to talk about the Jeeps and the Willys trucks since I was a kid. Now my daughter wants it.”

Raffle winners Roy Moore, Erin and Brynn Riley.

A commotion was occurring in the Community Services Building parking plaza. The smell of cooking Chili was enough to send your olfactory receptors to heaven and back. No less than a dozen teams were busy mixing, boiling, and adding spices to their propane-fired pots. Not unlike a sorcerer’s convention, the scene resembled the multiple stirrings of boiling cauldrons; the contestants were shrouded in mystery while adding top-secret ingredients. It smelled like a chili cook-off. Every line to get a bowl of chili was full. The crowd in the plaza went from a casual meandering around to grabbing a place in line. At the end of the day, the chili was spent. Running out of the main attraction is good news. It means everybody liked it!

Timed perfectly, as soon as all the chili bowls were cleared away, it was time for the infamous “Jalapeno Challenge.” The one lone table in the middle of the plaza became surrounded by spectators and last-minute entrants who first devour one Jalapeno pepper in one minute, then pound as many as they can in two minutes’ time. Imagine hundreds of screaming and cheering pepper–eating fans spurring on the contestants to go past the pain threshold and ingest the burning Jalapeno to ½ an inch of the stem. Dakota Robson and Shane Ricci shared the win and the bragging rights for this contest with six chilis each! When asked if he would do it again, Corporal Dakota Robson replied, “Definitely not!” The same question was asked to co-winner Shane as he chugged on a half-gallon of cold milk; he replied, “Oh Yeah!” wiping his brow with his sleeve.

Jalapeno contest delights all during the 2022 chili cook-off.

The winners of the Salsa Tasting were as follows: Hot, Nancy Aguilar, medium, Derek Goss, Mild, Nyatta Mary, and the People’s Choice goes to Jillian Edwards. In the Chili Cook-off, the winners were first place goes to Jonathan Schaefer. Second place goes to Chelsea Hash, and third place and People’s Choice awards go to Robert Gonzales. Congratulations to the Winners!

Congratulations to The Wrightwood Chamber of Commerce, Mountain High Resorts, Leslie Chesebrough Mihalko, Sarah Jessica Bailey, and all parties involved for a job well done.

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