Eight local restaurants and organizations participated in the 2018 Chili Challenge hosted by Camden's West Bay Rotary Club on Feb. 10. After trying a sample of each competitor's hearty red stew, visitors to the event marked their favorite on a ballot card and Scot Pierce of Quarry Hill Retirement Community was named the winner.

The West Bay Rotary members have been hosting the event, which is always held during the weekend of the National Toboggan Championships, for the past 15 years. After several years of organizing the event on the frozen surface of Hosmer Pond, where wooden sleds of racers shot across the ice, weather conditions prompted the Rotarians to hold the event indoors, in the comfortable upstairs dining area of the Sea Dog Brewing Company.

"Falling snow and ice occasionally made it pretty difficult to serve the chili, and we lost at least two of our tents to falling ice, which the rental company didn't like very much," joked West Bay Executive Director Sandy Cox on Feb. 10.

The eight teams competing in this year's contest were the Waterfront Restaurant, Marriner's Restaurant, Quarry Hill Retirement Community, the Bagel Cafe, the Wave Cafe, Dot's, Sea Dog and Cuzzy's pub. The Sea Dog won second place, and the Waterfront placed third.

The chilis varied in consistency, type of meat and vegetables, as well as the level of spicy heat imparted by their respective chefs. Quarry Hill's winning chili seemed to be the most traditional in appearance, texture and taste of the eight, and was served by Pierce with a bowl of multicolored tortilla chips and a jalapeno queso dip. The Waterfront served their chili with miniature cornbread muffins, and Kelli Evans of the Sea Dog served her pulled pork chili with a topping of pickled cabbage slaw.

The spiciest of the samples was the chili from the Bagel Cafe. The chili from Dot's had a base of beef sirloin with a touch of cinnamon, and the Wave Cafe prepared a batch of cilantro-flavored chicken and chickpea chili. The most unusual stew of the group was undoubtedly that from Marriner's, who offered samples of chopped clam chili.

Money raised through the purchase of event tickets will be donated by the West Bay Rotary to a number of local charities including Habitat for Humanity, New Hope for Women, the Diaper Fund, and One Less Worry.

"We also have two grant periods each year, where we allocate funds raised over the 12 months to student scholarships and initiatives," said Ray Fink, who is responsible for the club's public relations duties.

Further information on the West Bay Rotary Club can be found at WestBayRotaryOfMaine.org.