Friday may have been a warm night, but in downtown Camas, merchants were getting chili.
Or, more correctly, serving chili and soup that either they had made themselves, or had a local restaurant concoct for them.
The idea for a soup and chili cook-off First Friday event came from Carrie Schulstad and other members of the Downtown Camas Association.
First Friday happens each month and there is a different theme every time, with the goal of promoting downtown Camas.
“We thought this would be a great idea to cross promote local restaurants, merchants and the Camas Farmer’s Market,” said Schulstad, vice-president of the DCA.
Businesses were encouraged to use as many ingredients as possible from the farmer’s market in their soups and chili.
“In turn, the farmer’s market helped us cross promote this event,” Schulstad said. “It’s a win-win situation. We thought, ‘What does the start of fall feel like?’ The answer is soup and chili for those colder days.”
Judging from the turnout Friday, local residents agreed. By 5 p.m., when First Friday officially began, many were already gathered in various businesses, sampling everything from “Farmer’s Market Chowder” at 360 Threads, to “Hot Mama Chili” at A Twist on Time.
Attendees were encouraged to taste as many of the recipes as possible, and cast a vote for their favorite. In the end, the “Hot Mama Chili,” accompanied by organic corn bread muffins, was the winner.
Chili creator Debra Sampson said it was a definite original.
“It’s a recipe that I just made up one day,” she said. “My saying is, ‘If it tastes good then we must have done it right.'”
Sampson added that when she heard what the theme of First Friday was going to be, she was excited.
“I really wanted to have a reason to make chili,” she said.
The runner-up was Camas Technology Specialists, “Chicken Tortilla Soup.”
Merchants all agreed that the chili and soup cook-off theme was fun.
Beth Forsythe, owner of Lizzabeth A, served up chicken mulligatawny, courtesy of Oliver’s at the Camas Hotel.
“I liked the idea right away,” she said. “I thought it was different and that people would be interested in trying all of the stuff people had made.”
Forsythe added that traffic had been brisk that night.
“We’ve had a lot more people in here than we usually would at this time,” she said. “It’s dinnertime and they know they can sample things.”
Mariah Taylor, 13, tasted Brenda’s Garlic Buffalo Chili at Nico Bella.
“It’s very spicy, but that’s good because I like spicy,” she said.
Schulstad said the DCA would most likely make the chili and soup cook-off an annual theme for First Friday.
“If people enjoy it, then we’ll repeat it,” she said.