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Fiery cook-off: Teams serve chili to raise money for fire departments

Press Photos by Katherine Lymn The Gladstone Fire Department’s chili table shines with a firetruck light and other decorations Saturday at the Astoria Hotel in Dickinson for the RockPile Energy Services third annual Chili Cook-off.1 / 2
Press Photos by Katherine Lymn Kristy Baumgartner, the safety director for Wyoming Casing Service, stirs the company’s chili Saturday at the Astoria Hotel in Dickinson for the RockPile Energy Services third annual Chili Cook-off.2 / 2

Cooks stirred some generosity into their personal chili recipes Saturday in Dickinson.

More than 20 teams battled with their recipes — engineered by their own employees, borrowed from someone’s wife or passed down through a family over generations — Saturday at the oilfield services company’s third annual Chili Cook-off.

The event this year grew out of its old space — the Biesiot Activities Center — into the Astoria Hotel and Event Center ballroom. Teams, ranging from volunteer fire departments to oilfield companies, lined the room, each hoping to win either judges’ choice or the coveted people’s choice — granted to the team that collected the most cash donations in their boot given by hungry participants as they tasted the savory concoctions.

RockPile hoped to raise $100,000 from ticket sales, cash donations and the silent auction this year for area volunteer fire departments, said Howard Rough, vice president of sales and marketing at the company. Rough came from headquarters in Denver for the event. RockPile’s operations office is in Dickinson.

It’s on track to meet the goal; in its inaugural year, 2013, the event raised $43,000. Last year it raised $74,000.

South Heart’s volunteer fire department got its new $46,000 firetruck with the donations from last year’s cook-off, volunteer Bob Kuylen said as he set up the department’s chili entry — a recipe from the chief’s wife.

“I’ve been volunteering for 35 years and I’ve never had anyone want to do something like this,” Kuylen said.

Gladstone Fire Department Chief Joe Wanner said the department appreciates any extra funds, which will go toward a new fire hall. This year was the first year the cook-off will benefit his department, and Taylor’s. Dickinson Rural and South Heart departments will also benefit from the fundraiser.

The event also served as a recruiting opportunity for more volunteers, Rough said.

Wanner said the department, currently about 33 firefighters strong, is always looking for more help.

There will be plenty of chances for recruitment — all 900 pre-sale tickets sold out ahead of time, Rough said, and RockPile had 700 tickets to sell at the door.

Pioneer-Matrix, which produces proppant for fracking, has participated in the cook-off all three years to benefit the fire departments and because it does a lot of work with RockPile, said Jake Butt, sales manager for the company. Six employees came to town from the company’s Billings, Mont., headquarters for Saturday’s event, he said.

“It’s a lot of fun and people want to support for fire departments,” Rough said during setup on Saturday. Organizers were setting up tables to display all the silent auction items — guns, gift baskets, gadgets — as competitors secured outlets and perfected their recipes, mostly secret.

“This is a pretty big undertaking,” Rough said.

Lymn is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1211.