Girls Inc. of Carpinteria’s first-ever Chili Challenge left attendees with happy taste buds, full bellies, sore dancing feet, armloads of auction bargains and the satisfaction of helping to raise critical funds for an organization dedicated to empowering local youth.

Held last Sunday, the fundraiser featured 11 chili entries, from which a panel of five judges selected Jeff Havard’s “Albertsons Big Country Redneck Chili” as the first-place winner, and the crowd voted chef Nirasha Holcomb’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Farts Club” as the People’s Choice Award winner. It also earned the Spirit Award for decor and theme. Sandi and Mike Prather took home third place with their “Carpinteria Lions.”

More than 200 attendees turned out in their cowboy boots and 10-gallon hats to sample chilis and all the other offerings of the event.

To the twangy tunes of The Dusty Jugz, dancing queen Beth Schmohr led line-dancing throughout the evening. When they weren’t dancing, attendees were bidding on scores of silent and live auction items.

Chili came in all flavors — vegetarian, meaty, with and without beans — and tapas from local restaurants rounded out the savory menu.

Beer from Island Brewing Company, tequila tasting from Carretta de Oro and California wines were served, and Rincon Events hosted a cupcake bar featuring three varieties, including the Firecracker Cupcake, a special chocolate and chili creation made just for the Chili Challenge.

“The event was a huge success and a lot of fun,” Girls Inc. board president Mary Crowley said. “Most importantly, it raised important funds to maintain programs supporting local girls and helping them to grow up strong, smart and bold.”

The judges were James Sly, Head Judge; Clyde Freeman, Gail Persoon, Roxanne and Wade Nomura.

Girls Inc. is a nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold. It provides programs for girls ages 5 to 18 that focus on science, math, and technology; health; financial literacy; sports skills; leadership and advocacy; and media literacy. All programs provide girls with the resources, structure and assistance needed to graduate middle school, high school and move on to a career, college or university.

For more information, click here or call 805.684.6364.

— Donna Downs represents Girls Inc. of Carpinteria.