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Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew

Secret ingredients, recipes key to
Elks’ triumph last year

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(October 2007) – Secret ingredients, special recipes and even a trip to Louisiana have all the markings of a covert spy operation. In this situation, however, those elements were all combined to produce the winning stew at the 2006 Madison Area Chamber of Commerce’s Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew competition.
Last year, despite the loss of their historic building due to a fire, Madison, Ind.’s Elks Club rallied its resources and won one of the categories in the annual chamber event. At this year’s Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew event, club members hope to claim another victory. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, along Madison’s Main Street, from Jefferson Street to West Street.
The Elks plan to raffle a basket full of fall goodies and will entertain the crowds with recorded Cajun music.
“We wanted people to realize the Elks Club is still strong and active in the community,” said Debbie Lockridge, a seven-year employee of the organization. She helped organize the club’s participation in the event.
Club member Don Wells supplied the recipe for a shrimp gumbo that secured the victory in the stew category. Wells made a trip to Louisiana to get the shrimp for the gumbo. He actually went out on a shrimp boat with a friend and caught all of the shrimp he donated for the gumbo.
“The crowds loved the stew,” said Lockridge. “We sold out quickly and could have sold much more.”
This year, Wells is cooking up another special gumbo that may include chicken and sausage. “Really, the secret to the whole process is in how you put everything together,” he said. “It’s the little things you do that add up.”
He said many people last year questioned him about not adding okra to the seafood gumbo. “True Cajuns do not add okra to seafood; however, my chicken and sausage gumbo this year will have okra in it.”
Besides winning the stew competition, the Elks took third place in the brew division and a fourth place in the chili category. Elks Club member Chuck McAfee brewed up a special concoction that may have included Dr. Pepper as one of the ingredients.
“It’s a secret brew, and he won’t tell us what he put in it,” said Lockridge. This year should be another good one for the secret recipe.
David Wolf, another member keeping mum about his tasty chili recipe, has been practicing to perfect it before the upcoming competition. “Oh, he makes fabulous chili,” said Lockridge. “This year his recipe should be even better than before.”
The Elks Club is only one of 20 to 30 teams expected to compete in the annual competition. From the first event in 2003, the outdoor food and music festival has been a popular fundraiser for community groups, including Jefferson County United Way, Girls Inc. of Jefferson County, and the local Humane Society. Many for-profit businesses also participate.
“We encourage restaurants and anyone interested to join in the fun,” said Laura Hodges, the chamber’s marketing director and event coordinator.
There are four categories in which participants compete for small trophies and bragging rights. These are homemade soups, homemade stews, chili and non-alcoholic brews, such as spiced cider and coffees.
In its fifth year, Hodges said the festival is growing each year and becoming a favorite with locals. She estimated about 1,500 to 2,000 people visited the downtown festival last year, although exact numbers are not known because admission to the event is free.
In addition to the cooking competitions, there will be a variety of family-friendly activities including a corn hole tournament and giant inflatables for children. “The corn hole tournament was a great success last year,” said event chairperson Deana Williams. “Last year we had 10 teams sign up, but this year we expect more.”
There will be live music throughout the festival including performances by Abby and John Walburn, Andra Bladen and Jack Ulery, the Marsh Family Band, singer-songwriter Jimmy Mundane, and a performance by the Madison High School Drama Club.

• For information on the festival or to sign up to compete, contact Laura Hodges at the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce at (812) 265-3135, Ext,. 254.

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