Every year in uptown Beckley, on the first Saturday in October, a great thing happens. The streets are closed to vehicular traffic leaving a four-block area dedicated to smiling pedestrians, music, and CHILI. This year, Chili Night in Beckley was Saturday, October 6, and it was another success. From personal experience I can tell you that there were many great tasting dishes, and another great crowd that must have been near the expected 20,000 attendants. It was an atmosphere of fun for the entire family that Beckleyans have come to expect and enjoy.
Although many of us have come to appreciate the event over these last twenty-two years, we may not all understand how indebted we are to the one lady who makes it all happen, Jill Moorefield. Jill Moorefield heads up Beckley Renaissance, the organization responsible for all the public events held in uptown Beckley by the city every April through October. In order to get an idea of how far Jill has brought Chili Night and Beckley Renaissance as a whole, I spoke with her for a few minutes last week ahead of the 22nd Annual Chili Night.
Foster’s Chili – Photo courtesy of WVFoodie.com
In 1991, Jill Moorefield began promoting a new idea for the City of Beckley: an event organized by the city on behalf of area residents, a place that would encourage a family friendly environment, and a spirit of competition and community involvement at the same time. On that first Chili Night, approximately 400 area residents gathered in an empty parking lot where the Federal Building now stands. Jill says it was a short affair by current standards, with local vendors simply selling their chili to local patrons. But Jill saw an opportunity for something really special. Beginning with the 2nd annual Chili Night in 1992, Jill has been in charge of the event. It is now the highest grossing public event for the City of Beckley on an annual basis, averaging about 20,000 attendants and 70 total vendors (45 offering chili). It also funds the entire slate of events by Beckley Renaissance- things like the Taste of Appalachia held at the end of August and Fridays in the Park, which still offers live music free to the public every Friday afternoon (May-September) in Word Park. Jill has also found a way for young Beckleyans to get involved with the formation of the Beckley Youth Council. In this organization, Beckley area high school students are selected to become members of a standing committee every year and be involved in all the events Beckley Renaissance puts on. The kids get firsthand experience in the logistics of putting together large scale events, community service credits for numerous scholastic requirements, and the chance to have real input as to what events they want to see in Beckley.
So, in closing, thank you Jill and Beckley Renaissance, all the vendors and area residents who attended for another great Chili Night. I hope you all enjoyed the event as much as I did, and I hope after this article you take the time to appreciate what a great job Jill Moorefield does for all of us. Her efforts are truly from the heart, the result of long hours and little budget. If you would like to help Beckley Renaissance or have a suggestion to improve any of their events, log on to the City of Beckley website http://www.beckley.org, email Jill directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give her a call at 304-256-1776.