With a donation of canned food, visitors could enter O’Leno State Park for the 10th annual O’Leno Ole’ Chili Cook-Off and Springs Celebration on Saturday. The two events supported each other, bringing in people who love chili and Florida’s water.
“It’s a great way to get people to a beautiful park,” said Stacie Greco of the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, “They get to learn about some of our water issues and some of the solutions in a real celebratory atmosphere.”
The chili cook-off had two categories – Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) Category and Open Category – as well as a showmanship award and a people’s choice award.
Amy Harder won the CASI Category and Bert Dunn won the Open Category. Jane Calano won the showmanship award for her Irish-themed tent and Bret Harder won people’s choice.
In addition to taste tests, attendees had a chance to view different exhibits that showcased Floridian wildlife and local water issues. There were tables and kids games that explained some of the harm done to the springs and the Floridan aquifer.
“I’m hoping that people learn where our water comes from,” Greco said, “and that people are learning that by conserving water and by reducing pollution from things like fertilizers, they can be part of the solution.”