Irving — People ate a variety of chili concoctions during Irving’s 40th annual Blue Christmas Chili Cook-Off and Toy Drive presented in Heritage Park on Saturday, Dec. 7. After sampling chili, visitors were encouraged to take advantage of other family-friendly activities including bounce houses and face painting.
The Blue Christmas charity organization was started by Becky Fann in 1979 to provide Christmas presents for 25 needy families. Today, the organization aids more than 400 local families with not only toys, but also food items.
“We try to provide a nice meal and Christmas for these families,” John Shingle, a Blue Christmas board member, said. “Usually enough food for a day and a toy for each kid.”
The Irving Police and Fire Departments work in conjunction with volunteers to ensure that as many families as possible are able to celebrate a nice Christmas. The Blue Christmas organization hosts multiple events throughout the year including toy drives and food drives that benefit local families.
“The Irving community is such a great backer of our event,” Shingle said. “We never can really set a goal, but today is such a good day, and I think we’ll do well.”
Cooks gathered for a neck-in-neck chili cook-off, including multiple award-winning teams. The teams presented their entries with names like ‘Aardvark’ and ‘Heavenly Seven.’ Many entrants participate in the CASI (Chili Appreciation Society International) circuit.
“My wife and I both cook competition chili and have been for about seven or eight years,” Mike Moore, cooking for the Toyota of Irving team, said. “We belong to the CASI group, so whatever we spend in entry fees goes straight to our pod’s charity.”
Along with the chili cook-off, there were photo opportunities with Santa.
Following the chili cook-off Irving presented its annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting in the downtown area, which brought a late rush to the toy drive.