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Beanbags, chili draw crowd downtown for Oktoberfest on windy afternoon

ELKHART — Believe it or not, beanbags aren’t entirely wind-resistant. A bright sun shone on the cornhole tournament at the third annual Oktoberfest held Saturday in downtown Elkhart. But heavy wind gusts made for an extra challenge during the many rounds of the game.

Posted on Oct. 16, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Believe it or not, beanbags aren’t entirely wind-resistant.

A bright sun shone on the cornhole tournament at the third annual Oktoberfest held Saturday in downtown Elkhart. But heavy wind gusts made for an extra challenge during the many rounds of the game.

“You try to judge it, but it never really does what you want it to,” said Dave Willis, competing in the tournament with his son-in-law, Ben Hanlon.

Similar to horseshoes, teams of two players take turns tossing beanbags toward holes in wooden boards. Throws lofted too high in the air became susceptible to the breezy conditions, ramping up the difficulty in the friendly competition.

“You see ‘em move, go or stop,” Willis said, after his team won its second-round match. “It’s crazy what they do.”

The cornhole tournament has been a staple of the event, hosted by the young professionals group Pillars of Elkhart. A new addition to Oktoberfest, a chili cook-off, seemed to fit in well with the cool conditions in the afternoon and early evening.

The weather, however, didn’t blend as well with the decorations at Alan and Olga Perry’s booth. The pair were competing with their special variety of Texas-style chili, and their cooking area was accented with all types of memorabilia from the Lone Star State.

It’s not often his variety of chili is consumed in such conditions, Alan Perry joked.

“If you eat chili in Texas,” he said, “it’s hardly ever cool.”

Perry’s recipe calls for round beef, spices, a variety of vegetables from Olga’s garden and, sticking with the Texas style, no beans. The Perrys were representing Community Hospital of Bremen, where he works as food service director. All the cook-off entrants came from either local restaurants or nonprofit organizations.

The Perrys are cook-off veterans, competing locally often over the last 15 years. It’s always challenging and tiring, they said, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.

“Nothing’s hard work when you enjoy it,” Olga said.

Miles Lab took the judges’ award in the chili cook-off. The peoples’ choice award went to McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk, while B on the River won for best decorated booth.

By early afternoon, event organizers estimated they had already drawn a larger crowd than in the first two years.

A fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters, the day’s schedule featured beer and wine tasting, live music and a host of family activities.

Offering fun for all ages made a big difference in attendance, organizers said.

“That was important to us,” said Patrizia Staltari, co-chairwoman of the event. “We wanted a good balance.”


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