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Buckley Chapel hosts a “chili” day on the Front Range

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Buckley Air Force Base Chapel hosted its Seventh Annual Chili Cook-off Feb. 10.

The chapel has been the site of the Buckley chili cook-off since its first year in the now-absent modular buildings, formerly near the Sixth Avenue Gate. The chapel was next moved into Bldg. 606, now the Mission Support Group headquarters, where the competition continued to weed out the good chili from the bad. In 2006, Buckley dedicated the first new U.S. Air Force chapel in twenty years, and gave the chili cook-off a permanent home.

Throughout the seven years the chapel has hosted the chili cook-off, the one consistent element has been Debbie Cruz, chapel secretary and driving force behind the growing contest.

"It's one of the easiest chapel events to host because it has become so well known, and we have built-in participation," Mrs. Cruz said. "People come to us asking about when it will be held."

As scores of people filled the tables, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Daniel Zulli welcomed them. The chaplain explained that every contingency had been thought of, with medical and legal personnel present to care for needs resulting from too-hot chili.

The chili wars were open to absolutely anyone who wanted to enter and could have their chili in place at the Chapel by 11:30 a.m. for the judging. At stake were bragging rights to the very best chili on Buckley, an active-duty Air Force base that also plays host to Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Army and Air National Guardsmen, reservists of all services and servicemembers from many of our country's allies.

Eighteen chilis were entered into the competition, judged by the 460th Mission Support Group commander, Col. Vince Jefferson, his deputy, Lt. Col. Bill Morrison, and Tech. Sgt. Jill LaVoie from the 460th Space Wing Public Affairs office. Judging categories separated the chilis into the Best Red Chili, Best Green Chili, Best Hot Chili, Most Unique Chili, Judge's Choice Chili and the prized People's Choice Chili.

"This chili seems to be made of some kind of game," said Adrianne Michele, 460th Space Wing Plans and Programs.

"I enjoy a good vegan chili," reported Chaplain (Capt.) Randy Croft after sampling one of the entries.

A multi-tasker, Col. Clint Crosier, 460th Space Wing commander, was seen at the event comparing the many chili choices while also keeping in touch with many of Team Buckley's finest.

After the capsaicin had burned low, Chaplain Zulli confirmed what many of the crock pots in varying stages of empty already revealed... the winners.

In the Best Red Chili category, Master Sgt. Deanna Snider, 460th Mission Support Group first sergeant, won public admiration and an AAFES gift certificate.

The Best Green Chili award and the winner of the coveted People's Choice award was none other than Cindy Zulli, who also walked away with a prize package.

The Best Hot Chili award was bestowed upon Anna Marie Armstrong.

Winning both the Most Unique Chili and the Judge's Choice Chili accolades was Teri Teruia.

The winning chili cooks took home gift certificates and acclaim. About 100 others present that day received a warm, delicious lunch, exposure to many of their wingmen in Team Buckley, and the knowledge that their chapel is a warm, friendly place.
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