Featured (Slider) News

Student Veteran Association Holds Annual Chili Cook-Off Competition

On Thursday, Feb. 22, Monmouth’s Student Veteran Association held its annual Chili Cook Off Competition at the Rebecca Stafford Student Center in Anacon B from 1-3 p.m.

Though the actual competition started at 1 p.m., the setup started just before 12:30 p.m., and it was an all-out homage to the idea of a good ole-fashioned bar-b-que. The event had red, white, and blue gingham tablecloths, flags hanging, streamers, and country music playing though a radio.

The chilis that were part of the competition were brought by five different clubs, including the Sailing Club (represented by Nick Brewer), the Outdoors Club, the Student Government Association (SGA, represented by Paige Mlynarczyk, Maura Foley, and Michaela Foley), the College Republicans (represented by Jackie Tamburino and Jacky Bruno), the Student Veteran Association (SVA), and Dorothy Cleary, who is the acting advisor to SVA.

Each chili was uniquely their own. The Sailing Club’s was made with venison, the Outdoors Club’s chili was vegetarian and serves as the club’s favorite for overnight camping, and SGA’s was made with beef, bacon, and Italian sausage. Dorothy Cleary’s was a white chicken chili and the College Republicans’ was a beef chili along with the SVA’s, which was made by member Travis Wyatt.

Though they did not win, the Sailing Club’s took everyone by surprise due to the meat content, which according to Nick Brewer, would make sure the chili came out on top despite this being his first chili cookoff. “I was like, I’ve been making chili all semester; I can do it for a competition,” he said.

The Monmouth Republicans were also sure that they were going to come out on top. “This recipe’s won at other contests, at the Huddy’s Inn. It’s my mothers recipe,” said Tamburino, who was one of the two students representing the club at the cookoff.

Tamburino’s mother, Heidi Tamburino, originally came up with the recipe and was also at the competition to help serve students. She believes that to make the best chili, there are a few tricks people need to be aware of: “It’s gotta have the perfect amount of spice. It can’t be too spicy, and it can’t be not-spicy; that’ll make or break it… You gotta use fresh ingredients.”

Though each of the chilis were tried throughout the afternoon, it was clear whose chili was the fan favorite. Heidi Tamburino’s took the win, with Cleary’s in second, and SGA’s in third. According to Bianca Morrongiell, a Monmouth student who tried all six chilis at the competition, it was a close call. “I thought they were all great,” she said. “They were all delicious, spicy, and sweet.” In the end there was no way the Monmouth GOP’s could lose in her eyes. “I love how there was a burst of flavors.”

Cleary, though not the winner, was still someone that the club loved to have there. The interim advisor for the association has been with the club since Oct. 2023. Back in September, the former advisor Ramírez Xochil, asked Cleary to take over his post when Xochil was deployed overseas. Cleary, of course, being a friend of the advisor and a fan of the club, said yes and has since been lovingly accepted into the group as their advisor.

This is one of Cleary’s first events as advisor, which is fitting, as this event is actually a recent comeback for the SVA. Though they used to have one every year and won first place back in 2014, over time, the tradition waned and eventually stopped happening. Last year, the club brought it back and won first place by popular vote yet again. This, along with the tailgate concert put on by the SVA and the Monmouth Music Alliance back in November, in addition to the Dennis Vaccaro Foundation 5K Run that will happen in May, make up for years of not having large events for the club.

These events all help produce proceeds for the club, which, according to SVA President Naomi Ziola, is not something to downplay. “My father is a Marine and my brother is 82nd airborne; both are currently in different locations. I think it is nice to see how much support our veterans are getting, and I do think it is important, especially right now with what is going on in the world,” said Ziola.

The Dennis Vaccaro Foundation will be working with the SVA at the end of the semester to raise money in memory of the U.S. Veteran D. Vaccaro who was killed in a motorcycle accident in June 2023. The 5K will have first, second, and third place medals, and all proceeds will go to the foundation that supports “unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities for veterans.”

These events are important to those who are both in the club and to the other military service members that are supported by the proceeds and awareness raised when these functions are put on. “I think that it isn’t just about supporting the SVA,” added Ziola. “The ultimate purpose is giving thanks to those who decided to sign their lives away, in order to make sure people like us are nice and cozy at home.”