At the Key Peninsula Civic Center’s annual “Winter Warm Up/Chili cook-off,” Saturday, Nov. 9, friendly professional photographers Crystal Wedel, left, and Kellie Ann share the latter’s booth to display a bit of holiday spirit at a “warm” fireplace as they “prepare to open gifts.” Photo by Hugh McMillan, KP News

The sixth annual Winter Warm-Up Artisan Festival and Chili Cook-Off events at the Key Peninsula Civic Center (KPCCA) on Nov. 9 were well-attended. The parking lot was full, the gym floor was alive with merchants and community members, and the kitchen sold out of food.

Holly Hendrick, marketing and facilities coordinator for the KPCCA, said, “The event was created to support local artisans, crafters, farmers, and food sellers.”

There were more than 20 vendors selling handcrafted items, many of which were holiday themed. Some people came for one thing and found another. One young local woman said, “I came last year to buy Christmas presents and this year my friend and I have our own booth. We are selling wallets and purses made from duct-tape,” and she added that business was good.

There were new vendors as well as some favorites at the event this year. Returning vendors included Sara Gray (June Moon Beads), Magnus Nielsen (Nielsen Woodworks) and Chanetta Ludwig (The Bee Lady).

Children visiting Two Waters Arts Alliance’s craft table painted book covers while local artist Kathleen Gray gave her encouragement.

Hendrick said, “Bergen Brenkenridge, Suds & Verse, has a sweet story. He is 13 and lives in Vaughn, and is making soap using his grandmother’s recipe and selling it to save up for his education.”

Another first time vendor at the event was Susan Higbe, a Navy wife and mother of three boys. Higbe “crochets the most adorable things, including beards and mug warmers,” Hendrick said.

Girl Scout Troop 40956 was raising money for a trip next June to Silverwood by selling lip balm and hand scrubs.

In the Whitmore Room, there was a chili cook-off taking place. Firefighters and commissioners from Pierce County Fire District 16 volunteered to judge the event.

“There are two separate categories. One is beef chili, the other poultry chili. Each category competes within itself, and then the winner of each category competes for the finalist to be chosen,” said James Allyn, co-coordinator for the chili competition.

Chuck West, a battalion chief and chili judge, said the chilis were all good in their own way.

The winner of the chili competition was Penny Grant who took home a $30 cash prize.

This is the third consecutive year Grant has won the competition. Runner up for second place was Ron Schillinger, winning $20. The third finalist was Gae Gilhousen with a prize of $15.

Sherri LaGood, the Skate Night cook, headed the kitchen for the event and ran out of chili by 2 p.m.. Profits from the sale of food benefit the KPCCA for operations of the building.

The Minter Creek Choir sang and played their handmade marimbas under direction of their teacher, Paula DeMoss. These are students at Minter Creek Elementary School who meet for an hour each week after school to practice.

“Six girls from Girl Scout Troop 44080, coordinated by Lisa Bundrick, helped with setup, as well as managed our ‘Lunch Runner’ program, offering food and beverages from the kitchen to vendors without them having to leave their booths,” Hendrick said.

She said that other volunteers for the event included three teens from Skate Night who worked in the kitchen, and a lone Boy Scout from Troop 220, after their full day of collecting food donations, and KPCCA board members Peggy Gablehouse, Tracy Geiss, Scott Dervaes, Phil Bauer and Mark Roberts.

The overall atmosphere of the event was warm and friendly for attendees of all ages. There were many smiles and lots of fun as the community gathered to begin celebrating the holiday season.

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