The 10th annual Chili Bowl cook-off and fundraiser seemed to be the hottest place to be in Oneonta on Sunday. The Wilber Mansion was packed with more than 600 community members, visitors, politicians, musicians, artists, restaurant-owners, college students and even a couple of lovebirds.
April Parkinson, 29, of Walton, almost choked on her chili when her boyfriend Chaz Epps, 24, got down on one knee and proposed, after a brief speech by local government leaders.
“She hates being the center of attention,” Epps said. “But I love it, so I figured, they’re making announcements, why not grab the microphone right after?”
Parkinson, who said yes, said the proposal was a surprise. Epps said he was able to arrange for several members of Parkinson’s family to be at the Chili Bowl when he proposed. He called the chili “so delicious.”
Another person who was enjoying his chili was Assemblyman Pete Lopez, who said the event is a great way to bring the community together and provide a break in the midst of the winter doldrums. Lopez made his way through each room in the Wilber Mansion, trying each sample and speaking with the chefs.
Lopez said his family is very involved in music, so he likes to show his support for the arts whenever possible.
“Chili and the arts both cut across economic and other boundaries,” Lopez said. “Just like the arts are for everybody, chili is for everybody. That’s what makes it such a great event.”
Lopez, who said “the spicier the better” for his Hispanic taste buds, was in good company. Mayor Dick Miller, Senator Jim Seward and Congressman Chris Gibson were also in attendance.
Kim Condon, co-chairwoman of the event, said there were 29 chili entries in the competition, put on by the non-profit Community Arts Network of Oneonta.