By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG — It may seem easy to spend the afternoon eating chili and deciding which flavor you like best.
But as the nine judges at the annual Pennsylvania Cystic Fibrosis Inc. Chili Cookoff and Auction, held at the Scarlet D Tavern in Mifflinburg on Saturday, will tell you — it’s anything but.
“This is probably different than being a regular judge,” said Union-Snyder Judge Michael Hudock, who was judging the contest for the first time.
Hudock prefers sweet chilis to spicy ones, but that any of the 26 entries in the competition — which included sides and toppings such as cornbread, sour cream and cheese — could take the crown.
“It’s a good thing I’m not on a diet,” he said.
Fuzz Trutt, in his second year of judging, agreed.
“They each have their own unique flavor,” he said.
But it wasn’t just the newbies having trouble deciding which of the sumptuous dishes would take the cookoff crown.
Butch Woolsey, pastor of the Church of New Life in Lewisburg, has been judging the competition for more than 20 years. He’s had all kinds of chili — including rattlesnake, emu, seafood and chocolate — but he prefers the spicy chilis the best, he said.
“I love hot foods,” he said. “You should be able to taste the chili then get the hot.”
However, in a competition as close as this one, it’s not always taste that wins the day, he said.
“You have to think about the presentation,” he said. “Sometimes taste doesn’t win it.”
While the chili judges were debating the merits of the crock-pot concoctions, 200 of the estimated 300 people in attendance were downstairs participating in the auction, bidding on items to benefit PACFI and listening to personal testimonies from cystic fibrosis patients, such as Bethany “Buffy” Umholtz.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, which causes people to produce abnormally thick mucous. This can lead to obstruction of the airways along with frequent infections, according to PACFI’s website.
The amount of support shown by those present at the benefit Saturday was amazing, Umholtz said.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “There’s a lot of angels here today.”
Umholtz, a Mifflinburg Area High School graduate and resident of Milton, sings each year at the event and in her spare time mentors young cystic fibrosis patients, helping them cope with the difficulties of the disease.
“We offer each other support,” she said.
While listening to a fellow “CF-er” share stories of mutual friends they’ve lost over the past year, Umholtz said they inspire her to keep going.
“I try to live to the fullest,” she said. “That’s what they would’ve wanted. It’s also my daughter and my husband and our family and friends. Without them I wouldn’t make it.”