Fun on a sunny day

Outdoor festivities across the county pull people together under summery skies

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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Warm sunshine and hot chili brought out the crowds at Esther Short Park Saturday as sun-starved families reveled in perfect summer weather after a cool, wet spring that overstayed its welcome weeks ago.

The Vancouver Farmers Market, true to its name, overflowed with lettuce, spinach, cucumbers and blueberries. Hanging flower baskets and nursery plants adorned the stalls. Nearby, in the park itself, the 3rd Annual Vancouver Fire Fighters’ Union Fire in the Park was under way, with a pipe and drum band, antique fire trucks and a firefighters’ competition, a kind of slow-motion race in which volunteer firefighters competed to don heavy gear, hook up fire hoses and drag life-sized dummies to safety across Propstra Square.

But the highlight was the chili cook-off — nine recipes, each simmered for hours in 10-gallon batches and ladled from big pots at $1 per plastic tasting cup. Five restaurants and four firehouse crews competed this year, with proceeds going to benefit Share, which serves the hungry and homeless in Clark County. The chili feed raised $4,400 for the nonprofit organization.

The fastest chili to sell out was the Irish Korean chili, made with Guinness, the venerable Irish dry stout, and kimchee, the Korean condiment made from fermented cabbage and other vegetables. Yes, you heard right.

“The history of Irish and Korean hospitality goes way back,” said firefighter and chef Frank Mazna of Vancouver Fire Station 5. “All the meats and vegetables in the dish are smoked. We had people coming back for fourths. People asked if we were going to bottle it.”

In fact, the recipe was finalized just Saturday morning, Mazna said. “We do test runs year-round. We tweak the Guinness-kimchee ratio.” A good ratio seems to be two bottles of Guinness to eight ounces of kimchee, he said.

The chili at the Camas and Washougal Professional Fire Fighters booth featured beer, Tapatío sauce and white jumbo onions as its main ingredients. It was running low by 2 p.m.

Foody Blues BBQ’s “Red Spyder chili” featured beef brisket smoked for 12 hours, with green peppers and sweet Walla Walla onions. Foody Blues sells its wares at the Farmers Market and special events, managing without a bricks-and-mortar store.

Red’s Roaring Chili, served by the Red Lion restaurant chain, boasted the classiest ingredients: Garlic chicken, white beans, roasted Anaheim peppers, smoked tomatoes, cilantro, cream and fresh lime.

Foody Blues won the Judges’ Choice award. Vancouver Station 8 won best fire department chili and best fire department booth; the Red Lion won best restaurant chili and best restaurant booth.

The warm glow of chili merged with the bagpipe music as the afternoon passed. Families spread blankets on the grass. Katie Westre, the daughter of a fireman, was there with her three-old daughter, Aubrey, and two other children. Taking a pass on the chili, they had filled their plates with pad Thai noodles from the Farmers Market.

Camas Days

Meanwhile, in Camas, several thousand people lined Fourth Street on a perfect summer morning to watch the quintessential small-town parade, which literally started with a bang — a shot fired from a cannon — shortly after 11 a.m. The Camas Days parade featured vintage cars; rodeo royalty mounted on horses; and the Lacamas Shores Rain or Shine Umbrella Drill Team, which wowed the crowd with their bright orange bumbershoots — not that anyone needed them.

Bathtub races came later in the day, and a weekend-long street fair and beer garden, complete with live music, continues today.

Sip and Stroll

In uptown Vancouver, hundreds took part in Sip and Stroll, a late-afternoon and evening walk along Upper Main, Washington and Broadway, where they could taste wine and craft beer and peruse the merchandise at 38 downtown shops and restaurants.

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4523 or kathie.durbin@columbian.com.