There’s a particular perambulation, a relaxed ramble, that follows the East Texas Oilmen’s Chili Cook-off.

After chowing down on a handful, or dozens, or scores of samples of chili, visitors to downtown Kilgore slip away from the event – some alone, most in twos and threes or more – strolling down North Street, Kilgore and Main into the sea of parked cars, with warm bellies and contented smiles, contemplate this season’s best and what’s on the menu next year.

Back on Commerce, the event’s far from over after the chili’s gone and the thousands-strong crowd starts to thin: the final countdown sees oilfield service companies’ cook-teams crowding together, grinning and ribbing on another as they wait for the results.

This year’s came with good news for Southern Transport Thursday: the 27th annual fundraiser, largely benefiting East Texas Treatment Center, saw the trucking and hauling company cart home three awards from the stack of cook-off accolades.

After a blind-tasting of the year’s chilis by judges sequestered under the derricks of the World’s Richest Acre, the Top 5 featured Southern Transport in first followed by Texas Oilfield Angels, C&S Lease, Applied Consultants and KK Mobbs Construction.

From the tiny tabs affixed to each visitor’s $5 all-you-can-eat wristband, the most votes for People’s Choice went to Setpoint Integrated Solutions, Bell Supply Company and Southern Transport, which also netted second in Best in Show between first place Arpco Vales & Controls and Top Cat.

For Showmanship – this year’s pirate-based theme was ‘Chili Me Timbers’ – Axis Energy Pumping nabbed the year’s top award with Erflex Energy Systems and Arpco in second and third, respectively.

“It’s wonderful,” visitor and happy diner Sonja Brewster said, impressed at the size and spectacle of the ever-growing event. “I’ve been before, but it’s been years. You get so many different selections and you get to meet and greet with people.”

The 2019 event filled out the whole of Commerce Street with 86 cook-teams, all of them tied to the oil-and-gas industry in some way.

After helping chef Joe Parker concoct Redback Coil Tubing’s chili entry, Dale Calcote was content to find some shade on the cooking trailer and people-watch as thousands of guests passed by, picking up cups of chili, grabbing a spoon and putting them to the test.

“It’s a great benefit,” Calcote said. “It’s quite a challenge to come up with a chili that’ll work for this bunch. They’re determined.”

Spearheaded by a rotating team of volunteers organizers each year, proceeds from the annual cook-off benefit East Texas Treatment Center’s sponsorship fund to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars helping pay for needy patients’ care.

Follow upcoming issues of the News Herald for final tallies of the event’s numbers.

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