I like to consider myself an expert on all things Fall in Central Indiana. From the Matthews Covered Bridge Festival to the annual Hamilton Township Volunteer Firefighters’ Hog Roast, I know and love my Fall events. That’s what growing up around here does to a person. Muncie locals know all the best places to buy apples, get a kid’s face painted, eat a pulled pork sandwich, go on a hayride, get lost in a corn maze…you get the idea.

What’s not to love about Indiana in the Fall? The weather cools, the leaves turn, and there are countless local harvest festivals to attend. You get to decorate your house with gourds and pumpkins, and then you start thinking about what you or your kids are going to wear for Halloween this year. (Nobody steal my idea of sending my toddler out dressed as Garth from Wayne’s World, okay?) Get yourself some apple cider donuts from the orchard of your choice, and fall is nearly complete.

But the one thing I’m learning that I just can’t miss is the annual Commonway Chili Bowl.

This event is undoubtedly one of the best new yearly traditions for those of us at Commonway, which explains why somewhere more than 250 people showed up on Sunday to Wil and Cindy Davis’s house. There, we were greeted by a giant tent with tables for food, a self-service photo booth, bounce houses and crafts for the kids, a couple of fire pits, the beautiful pond to walk beside, and of course, lots and lots of chili.

This was the event’s fourth year at the Davises’ house, and it was probably the best weather we’ve ever had. We didn’t need big heaters in the tent this year, and kids were running around barefoot in shorts. People spread out in the grass and ate their chili without worrying about getting cold. There was an abundance of cornbread. I’m telling you, this was a good event.

chili bowl pano

This year’s chili competition was a bit different than in previous years. Instead of one big contest, the entries were divided into four categories. 18 people had their chili on the table at 4:15, ready to be judged by a panel of who ranked the chilis based on appearance, aroma, flavor, and texture. There were 20 points possible, and this year’s overall winner scored a remarkable 19.5 points!

Here are the winners of the four categories:

Best Homestyle Chili: Ted Baker (Ted always brings a good chili!)

Best Exotic Chili: Matt Carder (As far as I can tell, this wasn’t even rigged! We’ve just got a pastor who happens to make a delicious exotic chili.)

Best Vegetarian Chili: Liz Ranfeld (Hey, that’s me! My vegan friends were all very happy for me, and I think I owe a big thank you to the English professor who first had me over–in the fall!–and gave me fruit chili over a decade ago.)

Overall Winner and Best Traditional Chili: Katelyn Lafayette (Congratulations, Katelyn! I need your recipe!)

By the end of the night, there was no chili leftover, just empty crock pot after empty crock pot. We are a church that knows how to eat some chili. That’s a pretty good trait, if you ask me!

Find yourself in this gallery of photos taken at the event, and share your own photos on our Facebook page! We also have the digital versions of your photo booth pictures! Click here to view those photos.

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