Palm Coast, FL – There’s something about a chili challenge that brings out the beef among competitors.

While the competition was fierce between two of the most high pressure industries – law enforcement and firefighters, and the two remain the tightest of colleagues when lives are on the line, Flagler County’s Fire Rescue team was more than happy to go up against the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to see whose recipe was on the top of their game.

Part of the inaugural fall festival created by Flagler Broadcasting to help showcase the Florida Agricultural Museum, a growing feather in Flagler County’s cap, the chili challenge was a huge hit with families who flocked the museum’s 460 acre property on Saturday, according to David Ayres, vice president and general manager of six radio stations in Flagler and St. Johns counties.

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly and Flagler County Fire Chief Mike Tucker. Photo/Flagler Broadcasting

Featuring live music, vendors, and entertainment, there was plenty of good natured ribbing between the chili competitors as they vied for the ‘People’s Choice’ votes from event guests.

“The first ever Fall Festival and Chili Challenge drew thousands of people today to the Florida Agricultural Museum,” said Ayres with excitement.

Chatting with Carrie Blackledge, out to taste the day’s offerings, Ayres discovered she wasn’t your average chili sampler.

“We actually were judges in Texas for a chili cook-off, so we have experience behind it,” she said, throwing her support behind the sheriff’s chili.

Husband Gary Blackledge, shared the nuances of a standout chili recipe for him.

“I guess just maybe the thickness of it. The texture of the meat, the beans, and make sure they’re all cooked really good,” he said.

“I think that’s it. The second one we tasted is more like the majority of the Texas chili out there,” definitively casting his vote for the firehouse chili recipe.

In the end, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Detention team swept the competition, nabbing top honors and a red fire extinguisher as the trophy.

Photo: Flagler Broadcasting

“I am very proud of our Detention team that enthusiastically took on the fire house teams and made and served 16 gallons of chili.  The team created a top-secret recipe that will remained locked-up at the Green Roof Inn for next year,” said Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly.

“We would like to thank the firefighters and the other teams that made it a fun day for all but we have now proven that law enforcement can cook better than firemen,” he said proudly of the agency.

Flagler County Fire Rescue Fire Chief Michael Tucker said he was proud of the effort put forward by his team, led by firefighter paramedic Rob Errett, who shared how they developed their recipe.

“We had one team from Fire Rescue that I put together.  We, as a team, came together on the recipe after sampling all of the different chilies of the members of the team.  I then prepared the chili on site, while the other teams were premade at least the day prior.  I was the team leader, but we all played a significant role.  No “secret” ingredients were used as we just tried to put the best chili out to the public that we could,” said Errett modestly.

“I would like to say that the camaraderie between us here at FCFR and FCSO is something that has to be seen to understand.  We were all, jokingly, having a great time heckling each other.  I have not seen a better working relationship between any Fire/Rescue Department and a Sheriff’s Department like the one we have,” he said.

“I am very proud of the FCFR team members who took the time out of their personal lives to participate in this important event and support the Florida Agricultural Museum,” said Chief Tucker.  “As first responders we are proud to serve the community on a daily basis, and this was another opportunity to serve to which the team willingly gave of themselves to make a success.”

It was a narrow margin between the teams according to Ayres, who has long had a heart for the Florida Agricultural Museum and the youth programs, and helped by pulling in support from the local Trustco Bank and Ag-Pro/John Deere tractor dealership for the event.

Happy to support the hometown event as it launched for the first year, Trustco Bank branch manager Vincent Amore, a lifelong Flagler County resident, was among those out to taste the chili and enjoy the great outdoors.

“The Florida Agricultural Museum has been and is a strong staple for the community for years and by show of it last weekend at the fall festival chili challenge continues to be a great place where people can not only come and enjoy time together but for children and adults alike to learn and grow every time they visit,” said Amore.

“It was a ton of fun from trying all the different chili flavors from our local police and fire department especially to the pig races throughout the day but it also was important and great for us to be a part of something so awesome at a place that truly is so vital to the pulse of Flagler County.”

Featured Image: Flagler County Sheriff’s Office