The Johnny Tillemans Memorial Chili Cook-off is named after Carey Doyscher’s father. She cooks (right) with husband Pete Doyscher.

Chili Cook-off, Smokin’ BBQ again a part of Bug Days

For the past 20 years, self-appointed chefs have stirred, mixed and cooked homemade chili during Boxelder Bug Days.

The 21st annual competition, dubbed the Johnny Tillemans Memorial Chili Cook-off, will move from the former empty lot that is now the restaurant portion of City Hall Bar & Grill to the parking lot on the east side of Veterans Park for Saturday's event.

Prairie Home Hospice and Community Care of Marshall is sponsoring the event.

Meagan Tolk, Cassi Weiss, Tara Plante and Wendy Vierstraete are co-coordinating the cook-off.

The Chili Cook-off generally draws between five to eight contestants, many of them relatives of Tillemans, who was a well-known area businessman for many years.

“Anyone who wants to cook chili is welcome,” said Weiss.

“You don't have to pre-register and there is no fee. They usually start cooking the chili around 6 a.m.”

The judging will begin around 11:15 a.m. After the judges have gathered samples from each contestant, the public can then purchase samples of chili for $1 each. All proceeds go to Prairie Home Hospice.

The winners are expected to be announced around noon. Contestants must bring their own ingredients, utensils, stoves and tables. Beans are not allowed in any of the chili recipes, although they can be added after the judges collect their samples. No pre-cooking is allowed.

All blending and cooking must be done on the grounds.

Last year’s People’s Choice winner Carey Doyscher, who has been making chili every year since the cook-off's inception, has never made the same chili twice. I’ve used a different meat every year,” she said a few weeks ago.

“Last year it was snapping turtle chili and this year I'm planning on something different again; maybe crawfish.”

Her husband, Pete, was the People’s Choice winner two years ago. He cooks alongside his wife each year, but makes the same smoked turkey chili recipe every year.

Their system seems to be working as they have an abundance of awards between them. Jeremy Friedrichs of Glenwood, a great nephew to Johnny Tillemans’, was the Judge’s Choice winner last year in his first year competing in the event.

This year's People's Choice and Best Booth winners will each receive an engraved mug and a traveling trophy.

The judge's first, second and third place winners will receive engraved cutting boards.

Smokin’ BBQ in 4th year

The Smokin’ BBQ Cook-off enters its fourth year as part of the Boxelder Bug Days celebration and will be held on Saturday.

The first year of the competition was solely a BBQ pork rib cook-off. The past two years has been a competition of ribs, chicken and a dessert in which a barbecue chef could win one or all of the competitions.

“We talked to some of the people who have cooked in the past to see what they wanted to do this year,” said DJ Prellwitz, who has coordinated the event all four years.

“We came up with a ground beef competition, as well as the chicken and ribs. We won’t have the dessert this year.” Cooks can make any item they choose with the ground beef such as a burger, meat loaf, spaghetti sauce or more.

Cooks can register up until Sept. 5. The entry fee of $75 includes the ribs. Visit to see the rules.

Cooking begins at 7 a.m. with judging at 5 p.m. and public tasting around 5:15 p.m. Cooks must bring their own cookers/smokers, utensils, chicken, ground beef, spices and condiments.

Public tasting is $1 per rib and if tickets are purchased for each of the cooks, that person will receive a voting ballot.

“We want to do it that way this year so all the contestants get their ribs tasted by the voters,” said Prellwitz.

The person winning the People’s Choice award will receive an engraved mug with half the money collected by the public’s purchase of sample tasting tickets inside.

The top three overall winners of the combine recipes of the all three cooking item, receive cooking aprons.

The winners of each specific item (ribs, chicken and ground beef) will receive an engraved cutting board.

Last year’s overall winner was Eric Faris and Nathan Freeman of Chubby Hubby.

The People’s Choice winner was Cory Danneman and Justin Steinle of Smokin’ Hamms.

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