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Chili, Camaraderie Served Up At Riverbanks Veterans First
Chili 1
Veterans First founder Duke Cooper, right, visits with chili taster Don Hawkins of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District at Saturdays chili cook off event in Riverbank. Marg Jackson/The News

Sunshine and bright blue skies provided the setting for a Saturday ‘chili cook off’ at Veterans First on Patterson Road in Riverbank.

Veteran Duke Cooper of Oakdale, who founded the organization, said there were some great chili dishes to sample and lots of camaraderie among the veterans, the chili cooks, the tasters and those that just stopped in to lend support at the Feb. 25 event.

Those tasting the chili were invited to cast their votes for the Spiciest, Best Looking and Best Overall.

Chefs were on hand starting at 9 a.m., setting up for the cook off at the 2372 Patterson Road location, and judging ran from 10 a.m. to noon, with a flag ceremony and disposal of flags planned for later in the day as well.

There was a small fee for chili tasters, which included a taste of all the different chili entries, crackers and bottled water.

“Actually it’s pretty good,” taster Gary White of Modesto said after digging in to his first sample of chili on the day. “It’s a good starter one.”

Cheryl Carpenter said she was pleased with the variety offered, including some chili that had vegetables added.

Richard Gomez, meanwhile, was veering toward the mild side.

“I kind of like it mild, I want to taste the things in the chili, not get burned,” he said, smiling.

He also enjoyed the chance to visit with people at the Veterans First site, noting it was a great time for veterans and those that support them to get together.

There were also a variety of door prizes given away, including a handmade quilt.

Along with the chili chefs, a few vendors including Princess House and Pampered Chef were on hand for the event, as well as representatives of the Girl Scouts, selling their boxed cookies. Modesto radio stations Power Talk 1360 AM and 92.9 FM The Big Dog were on hand and did some interviews throughout the course of the day as well.

Veterans First secretary Charilyn Damigo had a table set up for people to offer notes of encouragement and support for soldiers and also took collections to help send care packages overseas.

“We are doing some good things here, some good things for the veterans,” Cooper noted. “That’s what it’s all about.”