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Chili Fest brightens a cloudy, chilly day
Chili lovers glad to have a cool day for "Chili Fest" while the real chilly to tiptoe in Sunday night

 Diana VanFleet (left) and daughter Rachel bundle up as they wait for Travis Tritt to perform at Chili Fest on Sunday.
SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 10/8/2012

BY ROB HEDELT

While many here shivered a bit Sunday with the daytime temperature down nearly 30 degrees in 24 hours, Joseph McDonnel was thrilled that the day arrived a little chilly.

The 8-year-old from Caroline County says there's no better weather for eating just that, a little chili.

"On a cool day, it warms up you inside and you don't get too hot on the outside," he said, sampling one booth's beef-and-bean mix at the 2012 Chili Fest, presented by the Star Radio Group which is owned by The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. and held at Classic Iron Motorcycles at Four Mile Fork.

Patrons sampling the wares at the event's Amateur Chili Cook-Off generally welcomed the cooler weather, especially at booths where cooks put a little heat in their samples, operating under names like "Burning Down the House," "Liquid Lava" and "Red Hot Chili Peppers."

Avery Dotson of Spotsylvania County, who enjoys cold weather in general, braved the cool, damp Sunday in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt to taste samples of chili from the dozens of groups serving it, the hotter, the better.

"This is weather to eat chili in," he said, "and I'm enjoying having some."

The chilly day was expected to usher in the first real feel of fall last night, with forecasts calling for temperatures dipping to at least 40 degrees, with a chance of rain.

The National Weather Service forecast for today, Columbus Day, calls for a high of 53, with a 60 percent chance of rain this afternoon.

That may feel like a shock after temperatures of 86 degrees just a few days ago.

"I'm glad it wasn't that hot today," said Kate Patterson, one of the chili chefs in the "Burning Down the House" chili booth operated by Weichert Realty of Fredericksburg. "Heat like that's rough on the cooks."

The cooler days and crisp nights should help hasten the transition of fall leaf colors around the state, sending "leaf peepers" searching for breathtaking vistas.

According to the most recent Shenandoah National Park fall foliage report on the state tourism website, fall color there is at 50 percent to 60 percent.

"Color arrived earlier than usual this year," it says, "so the peak of color is likely to occur in the second week in October."

Young Joseph McDonnel he wasn't alone in enjoying the warm feeling you get from a good bowl of chili. His firefighter father, Eric, shared the enjoyment as he helped man the "Hooks and Hoses" chili booth of the Thornburg fire company.

How much heat did their chili bring to the dance?

"Medium," said company captain Jason Carter, who noted the recipe was a mix of his and another belonging to his wife, Sue. "Just enough warmth for a cool day like this."

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415
Email: rhedelt@freelancestar.com