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Chili Fest: Spicing up springtime in Tri-State

COAL GROVE - "This chili is awesome," Jason Bolin exclaimed. "It's got a sweet taste, not too hot. This is my third bowl."

For Bolin, who just moved to Ashland, Ky., from Louisville, the annual Lawrence County MRDD Chili Fest at Tri-State Industries in Coal Grove was an opportunity to get acquainted with some new neighbors - and find out who among them was a chef par excellence. For Bolin, it was the chili created by Chef TSI and crew, one of a couple dozen entries in this year's event.

The cooks for this entry weren't giving away many secrets about what made their chili "awesome."

"There are some secret ingredients," Bob Price said in a hushed voice as he dished up bowls of chili. "Several secret ingredients."

From cocoa to corn to cinnamon to hot sauce, each entry had its own appeal and its own following of chili aficionados to rave about it.

Dustin Wattenberg of Pedro preferred the Oak Ridge Treatment Center's recipe. "It's just tasty," he said.

The annual event is one of several activities planned during the month of March by the Lawrence County Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities, all of them meant to raise awareness of MRDD.

Lawrence County MRDD Superintendent Paul Mollett said he was pleased with the turnout, which was steady throughout the day, and pleased that the community had once again shown solid support for a good cause.

"I look around and I see people who aren't even connected to MRDD and it really heartens me," he said. "They came because it's a good community event.

"Talk about awareness, this is it. We sometimes, when we talk about MRDD awareness, we get caught up in the technical talk. But this is real awareness. This is people with disabilities and people without disabilities coming together to enjoy a good time. Now that's awareness."