HORNER: Chili lament

Big events may come and go, but Fire and Ice will be missed

Step right up! Don’t be shy!

Yup, this one is going to hurt.

I wasn’t all that personally concerned when the Santa Claus Parade got canceled in Parksville. I’m no big fan of the mandated consumption of the so-called holiday season anyway and if I had to grit my teeth and think of England through one less manifestation of it, well and good.

I was a little more concerned about the cancellation of the Bethlehem Walk, only because I know how much it meant to the people involved in putting it on and how it put a visit to Parksville on the agendas of so many out-of-towners with money to spend. Personally though, the whole religious thing is foreign to me, so the loss of this event impacted me not at all.

I was sad when they stopped holding the Just For the Hell of It parade in Coombs. I just enjoyed the wacky, improvised and lively community energy that burst out during that event. I only went once before it got the axe though and I never actually participated. I just took pictures and enjoyed the show.

The Fire and Ice chili contest though, that’s a different story. That’s hitting close to home.

I’ve been involved in just about every Fire and Ice chili contest since the day I arrived here, eight-and-a-half years ago.

Steve Heywood and I would do up a gag front page for the issue before the big day, with Steve acting as the comic relief — chili-stealing clown, King Kong chili monkey and chili thief being hosed down by a fire hose — even Photoshopping himself in as a chili ingredient in his crazed assistant editor’s meat grinder.

We worked hard to come up with good ideas for the competition and we did pretty well, taking several honours over the years, whether it be for our four-meat chipotle recipe, our chili with red wine and chocolate or our vegetarian recipe with chanterelle mushrooms.

Shopping for ingredients, doing the prep, making the beer run, cooking the chili, setting up the canopy and washing the pots afterwards, I was an enthusiastic member of the team. It was great fun.

The best part for me though was the serving. I would have been quite happy to do it all day if other people didn’t need to have a turn. Something just seemed to click in this shy, retiring flower of a guy.

“Step right up! Don’t be shy! You look like a fine judge of fine chili sir! Here you go. No animals died in the production of this chili . . .  at least, none that we’re aware of. I mean . . .  there could have been an accident somewhere along the line I suppose . . .  Thank you sir! Step right up! Don’t be shy! There you go ma’am. The recipe for this chili was given to me by my grandmother, who whispered it in my ear on her deathbed. Last words she ever spoke were: ‘don’t overdo it with the peppers.’ Then she was gone, poor dear. Step right up! Don’t be shy . . . “

Of all the events that have come and gone in Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Coombs or Errington since I arrived here, that’s the one I truly will miss and I really hope our volunteer community, our businesses, our town or somebody, somewhere can rally to bring it back in 2014.

I don’t know about you, but I saw the spring chili cook-off as part of what being in Qualicum Beach was all about, and I really would hate to see it go.