Historical society chili cook-off to offer fibrous favorite with side of the past

Published 10:53 am Thursday, October 6, 2022

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By Gillian Stawiszynski

Contributing Writer

The Jessamine County Historical Society’s Chili Cook-off is back just in time for sweater weather.

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This annual cook-off between Wilmore, Keene, and Nicholasville yields the winning chefs the prizes of town pride – for having the most delicious chili – and a year-long membership to the Jessamine County Historical Society.

“It’s very local. When we had it in Keene, Keene won. When we had it in Nicholasville, Nicholasville won. When we had it in Wilmore, Wilmore won,” said Lee Robinette, treasurer of the Historical Society.

Dean Richards, a retired lawyer and Civil War aficionado will be the speaker at the event. He has lived in Jessamine County for 20 years. Originally from Indiana, Richards was president of the Indianapolis Civil War Roundtable. He is also an author and has spent countless hours researching primary sources to collect unheard stories.

“A lot of people think of history in school as memorizing dates and kings and queens and presidents, but this is history alive. You know, the smaller things that happened. There have been books that try to make history more real by talking about the smaller incidents, the things that have happened to real people, but [Richards has] done a lot of research and can just reel off stories,” Robinette said.

Richards has written a book about what the United States would look like today if the American South had won the war. But, through his research, he poses things wouldn’t be very different. A new unreleased book of his tells a story about a spy ring in central Kentucky during the Civil War.

He won’t be speaking about these books but the stories he found while researching in central Kentucky. Specifically, he will present true and untold events between 1861 and 1865 in Jessamine County.

“He was sort of running through some things, some of his anecdotes. There was one about a battle that took place right here, on the Kentucky River, between confederate and union troops. And the Confederates shot off the arms of one of the union officers. They retrieved it and returned it to him,” Robinette said.

While Robinette didn’t want to give away too many of Richards’ narrative punchlines, this story represents the unhinged human behavior of his other stories. They will dive much deeper into history than the dates of historical landmarks.

“In another episode, in 1863, a stagecoach from Danville came across the old covered bridge, and it was commandeered by some troops from Camp Nelson Union troops. They wanted not only the coach but the food that was on it. There was a lot of food that they were transporting. The men ceded the coach, but the women beat the soldiers off, retrieved the horses, made it to Lexington, and then sued the union for some things they had lost in the attack,” Robinette said.

To hear these wild stories of central Kentucky’s past and enjoy all-you-can-eat chili, join the Jessamine County Historical Society at the blue building in City/County Park on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 12-3 p.m. or until the chili runs out. Richards will begin speaking at 1 p.m.

Admission for adults is $10, and children 12 and under are free.

The event will also provide cheese, oyster crackers, desserts, and beverages. Community members will provide the chili and local restaurants from Keene, Wilmore, and Nicholasville. Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater and Nicholasville Commissioner Alex Carter will offer their chili to represent their respective towns.

All event proceeds will go towards the Jessamine County Historical Society. So come support an organization that gives its all it does to keep history alive and enjoy a vast array of the fibrous fall favorite.