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story.lead_photo.caption The winner of the 2017 Greers Ferry Chili Challenge was the Greers Ferry Fire Department, with cooks Jay and Angel England. The 37th Chili Challenge will take place from 4:30-7 p.m. Saturday at the West Side Greers Ferry School District cafeteria.

— The Chili Challenge is making its 37th appearance.

The Greers Ferry Area Chamber of Commerce will host the 37th annual Chili Challenge on Saturday at the West Side Greers Ferry School District cafeteria from 4:30-7 p.m. The school is at 7295 Greers Ferry Road.

The event started in 1983.

“This is the biggest fundraiser we have,” said Tim Marshall, president of the Greers Ferry Area Chamber of Commerce Board and owner of Marshall Insurance Agency in Greers Ferry. “Approximately 350 people go out to the school-district cafeteria. We have about 16 cooks, and they have to make 4 gallons of chili each.”

Prizes are given out for first, second and third place in the cook-off. Marshall said the chamber gives out 50 door prizes.

“You get a free door-prize ticket when you come through the door,” Marshall said.

Admission is $5. Children younger than 5 eat for free.

Hot dogs, crackers and desserts will be available to go with the chili.

“It’s a pretty good deal for $5,” Marshall said. “It’s a good time for all the local people to get together and have some communication.”

The master of ceremonies for the event is Greg Hutto, who was named 2016 Citizen of the Year for Cleburne County.

“He’s a local guy. … He’s a country boy, and he’s funny,” Marshall said. “He’s like an everyday comedian.”

Hutto said he’s honored to be able to help out his community.

“This is my community right there,” Hutto said. “I’ve been there for 35 years. It’s become a home place to me. I just love the people in the area that I’m around daily. It’s just a great opportunity to show a little bit of the love for these folks that I have.”

Hutto works for Cleburne County Judge Jerry Holmes in Heber Springs.

“To come up and just be a nobody like me, and for people to think that much of me, is great,” Hutto said.

Marshall said that with its various events, the chamber is trying to promote the area.

“We put on two street dances, Labor Day and Memorial Day, every year,” he said. “We have a band that we get, and it’s free admission.

“We try to get stuff out here to help the community out.”

Marshall said there are usually 11 fishing tournaments a year at the Devil’s Fork Fish Pavilion.

“It helps get people up here to buy gas and food and stay in a motel,” he said.

Marshall, who has been on the chamber board for eight years, is in his third year as president.

“I’ve been a business owner here in Greers Ferry for 27 years,” he said. “I want it to grow as bad as anyone here in town. I’ve tried to get the town to grow and get people to come here. I don’t make anything off the weekenders, but maybe one day, they’ll decide to move up here.”

For more information about the Chili Challenge, call the Greers Ferry Area Chamber of Commerce at (501) 825-7188,

email info@greersferry.com, or visit the chamber on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gfchamber.

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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