PEPPERELL - It was fair and chilly and the fare was chili. The inaugural Chili Cook-Off drew about 50 visitors to the Pepperell VFW. Eight entries were rated by four judges on such qualities as texture, taste and authenticity. There was also a People's Choice award, based on feedback from visitors who paid $10 to savor unlimited cups of chili

Patty Thorpe won the Judges' award. Ryan Gatton took the People's Choice. Stacey Taylor won second place in both categories. Cooks each had a different strategy, from strict recipe adherence, to foolproof methods, to winging it. Bob Michaud's approach is somewhere in the middle, "I always start with same basic recipe," he said. "But I tweak it a little during the process."

The $516 raised went to local charities PACH, GWOT and Fourth of July Committee. Organizers Brooke and Ryan Gatton are planning for next year's contest and are considering a name change to "Chili Pepper-L."