A night of food, fun for education

Rochelle firefighters Johnathan Plaza and Curt Helgren being asked by emcee Michael Koolidge what their secret ingredient is.

Rochelle Township High School Education Foundation raises over $5,000 for students, classrooms

ROCHELLE – The Rochelle Township High School Education Foundation hosted its annual fundraiser at Salt 251 on Saturday night.
Each year the foundation hosts a fundraising event in order to continue providing grants and funds for equipment that the school would otherwise not be able to afford.
In the past, the foundation has been able to provide laptops, heart monitors for the PE classes and a pottery oven for the art classes.
“We raise money and award grants so that teachers can do things above and beyond in their classroom,” said RTHSEF board president Rhonda Crandall. “Stuff that maybe the high school can’t afford to buy, but we want it to make an enriched, engaged and extra special experience for the kids.”
Since the creation of the foundation in 1994 it has awarded more than $160,000.
In previous years, the RTHS Education Foundation has held many different types of events for its annual fundraiser, including a 30 Men Who Cook event, dueling pianos, and even a retro prom.
This is the first time the foundation hosted a chili cook off.
“This is the first time we have done it, so it may become an annual event, at this point we are not sure,” added Crandall. “We wanted to bring parts of the community in, that is why we have our guest chefs. So people can get to know special people in our community and raise money for a great cause.”
This year’s event featured four different chili recipes for attendees to taste-test before voting on their favorite.
Each of the chilis at the event were cooked and represented by a different organization in the community, including Hormel/Rochelle Foods, Team Bearrows, The Rochelle Fire Department, and the RTHS Athletic Boosters.
Attendees at the event would go around the room trying each of the different chili recipes and then vote on their favorites by leaving a “tip” in the jar on the cook’s table. At the end of the voting, organizers counted the tips in each of the jars and the organization with the most money was awarded with a plaque with a soup ladle attached to it. All of the funds collected through the event went to the RTHS Education Foundation.


Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows and his wife, Dina, accept the plaque for winning the 2019 RTHSEF chili cook off.

Each of the cooks in the competition had their own secret ingredients to make their chili stand out.
“The secret to our chili is lots of homegrown veggies and homemade V8 juice along with using ground bison to help bring out the flavor when it cooks,” explained Rochelle firefighters Curt Helgren and Johnathon Plaza.
Others did not want to reveal their secret since it was a recipe that has been in the family for years.
The attendees seemed to enjoy all of the chilis, but some had obvious favorites.
“Rochelle Foods’ tasted the best, but Team Bearrows has the best condiments,” said attendee Jesse Hoiness.
Once the voting was finished and the money in each of the chef’s tip jars had been counted, it was time to announce the winner and award the plaque to the winning team. It was a very close competition, but in the end mayor Bearrows, with Team Bearrows, came out on top.
Along with the chili cook off contest there were also baskets full of prizes being raffled off, along with a 50/50 raffle and a performance from local band, The Vodka Boys, to finish off the night.

Vodka Boys


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