Sweat beaded on a few foreheads after sampling chili No. 22 at the annual chili cook off contest in Owatonna Saturday, February 1. The small cups prevented smoke from rolling out of one's ears, but the impact was there. So can also be said for the 16th annual event that brings the community together to remember a young boy taken too soon.

The fundraiser is in honor of the Andrew Lawrence Memorial Scholarship. Andrew was struck by a car in September 2003 while riding his bicycle. An information page on the scholarship states, "Andrew was a student at St. Mary's Catholic School in Owatonna, where he excelled in his classes, was involved in many extracurricular activities, and had many friends...He loved his family and his friends and he enriched the lives of all those who came in contact with him." The scholarship was "established to assist other students in furthering their education at a four-year college or university."

The Lawrence family (his father Bill, mother Marie and sister Jennifer) thanked the community for the turnout at the 16th annual event held at the National Guard Armory, saying in a Facebook post, "We had 650 attendees and we estimate that we raised over $8,500 with donations still coming it."

"In May, we plan to award five $1,500 scholarships for a total of $7,500 at the Fine Arts Awards Ceremony at the Owatonna High School. Check with the Owatonna High School Counselors' office for applications."

Award winners in the contest included Todd Berglund's Fame Awards Flame Award for the aforementioned No. 22 entry. Other winners include

  • Chef's Choice, red: No. 4 Julia Titus
  • Chef's Choice, white: No. 10 Dave Wunderlich
  • People's Choice, red: No. 9 DJ Hanson and Jacob Kearin
  • People's Choice, white: No. 5 Jorge Delgado
  • Grand Champion, red: No. 19 Dan Sawyer (this was a dessert chili)
  • Grand Champion, white: No. 30 Lil Franken
  • Fame Awards Flame Award: No. 22 Todd Berglund
  • Owatonna's Best Chili, restaurant: Costa's

I came across several people, including some longtime Owatonna residents, who were attending this event for the first time. It's nice to see more folks come out to support this cause. I made it around to about 20 chilies and am always impressed with how each has it's own flavor and texture.

I found about the Carolina Reaper pepper, which was used sparingly, but with a very positive impact, in white chili No. 32. Another chili (No. 20) featured pineapple, which Anton brightly pointed out.

Sawyer's dessert chili seemed to be in a class of its own, but he informed me it was in the red class due to Japanese red beans. And he won the Grand Champion honor in that class.