By Curt Yeomans
The smell of chili lingered in the air on Wednesday from one end of Clayton State University's James M. Baker University Center to the other.
When the aroma faded, the university's Women's Forum had collected about $6,000 for its scholarship fund.
Ten tables, covered with 20, chili-filled Crock-Pots, were lined up in front of the bookstore for the fourth annual Women's Forum Chili Cook-off. Patrons could pay to sample all kinds of chili, bid on items and participate in a raffle with a special quilt as the prize.
Betty Haripar, the organizer of the cook-off, said she believed the cook-off, itself, raised about $400, which is typical of what it usually takes in. The chief moneymaker, during the event, however, was the sixth annual online auction, in which items such as floral arrangements, gift certificates, and an Auburn University-themed blanket were popular items.
A preliminary count showed that $5,109 had been pledged, and $3,330 was already in the hands of the auction's organizers, according to Alina Brooks, one of the co-organizers of the auction.
A quilt made by Lou Brackett, an assistant professor of office administration for the college of professional studies, fetched an additional $550 in a raffle for the double-bed-sized item.
"I participated in this because women's education was really important to my dad [the late George Lacy]," Brackett said. "He always said, 'An education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you.' "
The president of the Women's Forum, Margaret Thompson, said it's important to have the scholarships, because female students make up more than 50 percent of Clayton State's student body. "We'd like to make sure they have a chance to succeed while they are here," Thompson said.
While the chili cook-off did not soar financially, it was popular with patrons. Haripar said the chili cook-off drew a wide range of entries. "We had turkey chili, chicken chili, regular chili, veggie chili," she said.
"Some people got creative and gave their chili names, such as 'Lip Removers.' We had a lot of people who came out to get some chil, so I'm pleased with the response."
Awards for the top three chili dishes were decided by a four-person committee made up of Clayton State Athletic Director Mason Barfield; plant operations painter, Bob Ward, interim public safety director, Lt. Rex Duke, and assistant vice-president, Elaine Manglitz.
Aisha Harley, a student at Clayton State, won the prize for best chili dish with "Aisha's Chili-Chili Bang Bang!"
"She had a couple different types of beans in it, including black beans, which is one of my favorites," said Duke, who added that he felt as if he'd burned his taste buds to a crisp by sampling 18 different types of chili.
Students who came by to try some of the chili said they were pleased with what they got to eat. Alex Adams, a freshman mathematics major, decided to try some of the chili, because he saw the tables set up when he walked into the university center. Adams opted for a mild chili, because it was made by the father of one of his friends.
"It's a pretty good chili," he said. "There's a pretty good mix of flavors. It's not too spicy, but not too sweet, either. It actually tastes a little bit like my dad's chili."
An Hoang, a sophomore at Clayton State, who is enrolled in a paralegal studies program, said he decided to check out the cook-off, because it overwhelmed his senses when he walked into the university center.
"I smelled something really good when I entered the building," he said.