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Home » Santa Clarita News » UPDATED: Sheriff’s Fun In The Sun Chili Cookoff Raises Fun(ds) For Special Olympics

UPDATED: Sheriff’s Fun In The Sun Chili Cookoff Raises Fun(ds) For Special Olympics

10_2_Chili_WD__0069UPDATED 11:22 a.m. Tuesday with results

You could smell the enthusiasm at the annual Fun In the Sun Chili Cookoff  at Jack Bones Equestrian Center on Saturday; a mixture of heat, spice and fun.

It was evident from the first chili booth forward – eager cooks stirring the pot, offering samples to those streaming through the gates, girls in black feathers giving out tastes of their bubbly red concoction and last year’s prize winners wielding a ladle right next to an open coffin.


Some of the cooks had been at it for hours; cooking down pounds of ground beef, steak and chicken, mountains of beans of all descriptions and fillers like tomatoes, corn and of course, chili peppers. The consistency ranged from thick paste to pungent soup, the aroma tantalizing those with adventurous taste buds to wave their “chili cards” and get a sample.

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Bottom line, though, was that nearly $26,000 was raised and a good portion of those funds will benefit the Special Olympics.

Taking overall top honors were the team from Homicide; the judge’s choice chili was from Dance Studio 84 and picked as the hottest of the hot was the concoction from East Los Angeles station. (A complete list of winners of the competition is listed at the end of the story)

10_2_Chili_WD__0007“We’re ahead of last year,” said Laura Mayo, Regional Director of Special Olympics, Santa Clarita Valley. “There were a lot more people. I think we got the word out better and people bought presale tickets, which made the difference.”

The annual event has grown and changed, something department historian Michael Fratantioni explained was probably for the better.

“I’ve seen pictures of this event from the early days and, let’s just say it wasn’t quite as family-friendly,” he said, smiling, between judging chili samples.

10_2_Chili_WD__0020The chili cookoff is one of the ways the public gets to see the Sheriff’s Department and its staff – which includes much more than patrol deputies – in a different setting. While the cookoff itself is held on one end of the Pitchess Detention Center, the deputies bring their families for the fun, which included games and activities for kids as well as demonstrations of department skills.

“It was fantastic, we had nonstop crowds at the ticket booth and the streets were full. We definitely exceeded expectations,” said Sgt. Gerri McCorkle, who leads the team of volunteers that puts on the event.

“This is an excellent outreach event,” she said. “I read a couple of accounts that we’ve done it for 25 years, but 25 years ago, there was a chili competition under Sheriff Block’s regime, but they moved it down south to Whittier and it fizzled out.

10_2_Chili_WD__0077“Seven years ago, we brought it back as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics and it was very small, but in the last five years, it has grown.”

The crowd Saturday numbered just shy of 8,000 people.

Twenty four units – either bureaus such as Homicide and Special Victims or different stations, such as Century or units at the jail, such as PDC South and North, and everything in between – competed in the chili throwdown.

Interspersed between the cooks were booths from local nonprofits, or sponsors of the event, as well as vendors including a booth that sold creations made from real bugs.

McCorkle explained that law enforcement has a connection with the Special Olympics, participating in medal ceremonies and the annual Torch Run with other agencies. She said that this year, they added two additional beneficiaries, the Police Unity Tour (a cycling race in which McCorkle herself rode in Washington D.C. to raise money for fallen officers and the National Law Enforcement Memorial) and Fuel for the Fallen, a fleet of vehicles marked with the names of those killed in the line of duty as well as the victims of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.

10_2_Chili_WD__0105The Sheriff’s Department has a charitable giving campaign and events like the Fun In The Sun Chili Cookoff helps all participating units make their contributions, covering their obligation to Special Olympics and three other designated charities, so they can use funds collected at the station to help support their own staff.

“There’s a definite benefit with the camaraderie, based on the competition between the units and the bragging rights if they win,” McCorkle explained.

The crowds attending aren’t all deputies and their families, but a mix of supporters from the public as well as friends and family.

“Now they can see us as humans and individuals who have families,” McCorkle said. “It helps with the negative press that we occasionally receive just because of the nature of the job.”


Grand Master – Homicide Bureau

Judges Choice

  1. Dance Studio 84
  2. Industry Station
  3. East Facility

Hottest Chili

  1. East Los Angeles Station
  2. East Facility
  3. Altadena Station

People’s Choice

  1. Altadena Station
  2. South Facility
  3. TST North/ALADS


Most Creative

  1. Lancaster Station
  2. Altadena Station
  3. Facilities Services Bureau

Most Spirited

  1. Parks Bureau
  2. Altadena Station
  3. Facility Services Bureau


How to Get Disqualified….



Talk about friendly competition – an intruder at the USC lounge!



UPDATED: Sheriff’s Fun In The Sun Chili Cookoff Raises Fun(ds) For Special Olympics

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