ESCANABA - The United Way of Delta County kicked off its fall fund-raising campaign Tuesday with the 17th annual United Way Soup'r Chili Challenge.
The event, held in the Ruth Butler Building at the U.P. State Fairgrounds, featured soups and chili made by volunteer chefs from local businesses, restaurants, and organizations. The theme for this year's event was "Everything 80s," with many booths drawing inspiration from this decade.
"This is our community awareness event to kick off the United Way campaign," said Julie Mallard, executive director for the United Way of Delta County. "It lets the people of Delta County know that it's United Way time."
Donna Russoto of Great Start pours some taco soup at the 17th Annual Soup’r Chili Challenge. Pictured behind Russoto (right to left) are Tara Weaver and Stacy Wilson. Great Start won the people’s choice award for best booth display for their 80s’ inspired Pac-Man tribute. At right are, pictured from left, Chrissy Segorski, Lesa Martineau, and Lori Stankowich, from the Delta County Credit Union. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
Mallard said, typically, around 500 people show up every year for the event, and this year 23 chefs took part. The United Way anticipates making $3,000 or $4,000 from the Soup'r Chili Challenge itself, but this is not their main fundraiser.
"Every year we do a campaign in the community," said Mallard. "A lot of it takes place in the workplace - people do payroll deduction pledges or give through their work. Certainly there are lots of people who send their donations directly to the office or go online and donate with their credit cards. There's lots of options. We try to make it easy for people to donate."
This year's goal for the United Way campaign is to reach $250,000, which would allow United Way to reach approximately 25,000 individuals through many local human service programs.
Soup'r Chili Winners
People's choice soup: Pacino's
People's choice chili: Hereford & Hops
Judges' choice soup: Terrace Bay Inn
Judges' choice soup/non-restaurant: U.P. State Credit Union
Judges' choice chili: Island Resort & Casino Firekeeper's Restaurant
Judges' choice chili/non-restaurant: Delta County Credit Union
Currently, the United Way donates to 15 different local programs in Delta County, she said.
"We have a team of volunteers that review the grant applications every year to help decide how to distribute the funds that we raise," said Mallard. "It's very community-oriented, and I think people like the fact that it stays local. You're taking care of your neighbors."
The Soup'r Chili Challenge featured 11 different soups and 12 chili choices. Those in attendance had their own favorites.
Becky Pouliot from Gladstone said her favorite chili of the night was the white chicken chili offered by the Delta County Credit Union, while her favorite soup was the chicken cordon bleu from the Terrace Bay Inn.
Thirteen-year-old John Perrault, from Escanaba, however, differed.
"My favorite soup would be the chocolate soup from the Jaycees," he said.
Renee Perrault, 10, also from Escanaba, enjoyed the chocolate soup as well, in addition to the cheeseburger soup from the U.P. State Credit Union.
Those who attended cast their votes for their favorite soup and chili, with the people's choice soup going to Pacino's for their cheddar and brat soup, and the people's choice chili awarded to Hereford & Hops for their brewhouse loaded chili. The award for best booth display was awarded to Great Start, who went back to the 80s with a booth inspired by the arcade game Pac Man.
In addition, four soup and four chili judges volunteered to taste test each of the soups and chilies at the event to provide their choices for four judges' choice awards handed out.
The winners of the judges' choice soup in the restaurant division was Terrace Bay Inn's chicken cordon bleu, while the U.P. State Credit Union won judges' choice soup in the non-restaurant division for their bacon mushroom cheeseburger in paradise soup.
The restaurant winner for judges' choice chili was the Island Resort & Casino Firekeeper's Restaurant chili, while the Delta County Credit Union won non-restaurant judges' choice for their white chicken chili.
For more information on United Way and to find out how to donate to their campaign, visit the its website at uwdelta.org or call their office at 786-3736.