Chili to warm people up for a good cause

By Jeff Smith

The bonfire for the s’more-making station burned in front of the Polar Bear Chili Cook-off on Saturday. The s'more station was considered a big hit with adults, as well as kids.

Jack Welker, Junior Warden with Tin City Masonic Lodge #112, said  the Polar Bear Chili Cook-off and Minnow Races are a fundraiser but also something to do in the community.

“We still plan to do it no matter how cold it is,” Welker said.

The event will be from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Feb. 10. in the parking lot across from Harney Peak Inn.

“We decided one day that we wanted to do this. It has gone over well,” said Welker.

He said that a lot of people come to Hill City to taste the chili. People will have booths so people can try the different chilis.

Competitors can enter their chili for $25. There are three categories for chili: white chili, red chili and green chili. There is usually about 12 booths; this year the Masons are pushing for 20 booths. Last year, around 250 came out to taste the chili.

The Masons would like all booths to be be decorated for the event. There will also be a competition for the best booth decor.

The tasting fee  is $5 per person or $20 per family. This gets people to taste everything that is there.

John Knapp, a member of the Tin City Lodge #112, said people can show up with the chili or call him ahead of time to say that they are participating.

It is also the second year that the minnow races are going to be happening.

“We’re hoping that the minnow races will go better this year,” Knapp said.

They recruited local Boy Scouts to help the Masons with that aspect of the event.

The money raised for the program will go toward the child identification program (CHIP), the Masonic Model Student Assistance Program and student scholarships. The Masonic Model Student Assistance Program helps staff and faculty in schools recognize signs of drug and alcohol abuse or abuse in their homes. Each year it becomes available to more people in South Dakota.

Welker said they are working on having one West River soon. There have been ones in Rapid City and Lead. They are usually hosted in large meeting spaces in hotels.

The Masons are also going to be participating in the SDCHIP program at the Black Hills Sport Show and Outdoor Expo which is held Feb. 9-11 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. In South Dakota, this is a program that provides kits for around 23,000 children for law enforcement to use if they go missing. In west river, 68 percent of the population of children have gone through SDCHIP. The SDCHIP consists of dental impressions, a cheek swab, a digital still photo, a video interview and fingerprints.

“Everything we do is given to parents,” Welker said.

A still picture helps identify the child when an Amber Alert goes out.

The SDCHIP is also done as a part of Kids Fair at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center that happens at the end of April. 

Welker said that they want people to know the Masons are here for the community.

Set up of for the sixth annual chili cook-off and minnow races will take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. One of the big things is getting electricity  so each booth can have it for their chili.

Welker said around 10 Masons will help with the event. Other family events might keep some Masons from helping. But Welker said they like to prioritize taking care of family in the Masons.