The 10th annual Gingerbread House Barn Dance and Chili Cook-off kicks off this evening, continuing through Sunday, at the Ellis County Expo Center.

“The cold weather we’ve been having all week will only enhance the aroma of the chili and the warmth of tasting the chili throughout the weekend,” Gingerbread House executive director John Wyckoff said. “There is just something about cold weather and good chili.

“We hope to see you all there and there are still general admission tickets left for the barn dance on Saturday night where the two Super Bowl tickets will be auctioned off,” he said.

Super Bowl tickets

Vintage Bank has graciously donated a very special live auction item for this year’s chili cook-off and barn dance: two tickets to Super Bowl XLV, featuring the Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The two tickets – Section 408, Row 21, Seats 1 and 2 – will be the only live auction item offered during Saturday night’s barn dance. Bidding will begin at 8:30 p.m.

“We think it’s a great cause and benefit to our community,” said Jeff Frazier, chairman and CEO of Vintage Bank. “We’re proud to be a part and be able to do something like this.”

Vintage Bank has been a long-time supporter of the Gingerbread House children’s advocacy center, with bank president Pam Underwood saying she’s participated every year with the cook-off, including having ridden as one of the local celebrity mechanical bull riders.

“This is to help support the chili cook-off and barn dance, with the money to go to the Gingerbread House,” Underwood said.

Vintage Bank staff member Megan Perdue will represent the bank this year in the local celebrity mechanical bull riding event.

“I’m ready to represent Vintage Bank and bring home the first place trophy,” Perdue said. “It’s great to be given an opportunity like this to help raise money for the kids. In the end it’s all for them and I hope we can help make it happen!”

“The 2011 chili cook-off and barn dance will be a celebration for our center; we’ve come so far since our first in February 2002,” Wyckoff said. “As much as we would like to see child abuse disappear from Ellis County, the reality is we are busier this year than the last two years.”

The fundraising event began 10 years ago when the children’s advocacy center officed in a space at the Texas Baptist Home. The first chili cook-off was being planned in August 2001 and the Ellis County Expo Center had been reserved when Ellis County Constable Terry Nay and Justice of the Peace Jackie Miller Jr. contacted Wyckoff about doing a dance in combination the same weekend.

“When I first met John we all kind of clicked personality-wise and what we were looking to do and the type people we were trying to help. What better (cause) than sexually and physically abused children when you look at it in the big picture? You don’t want people to starve but children are defenseless,” Miller said.

The chili cook-off runs Friday through Sunday with four chili categories: CASI chili – grind only, novice chili, 50/50 beans and junior cook-off. Entry fees range from $10-$20 per event and admission to the cook-off

event is free. Friday and Saturday first place winners receive Wendell Rankin hand-painted stoves. For chili cook-off rules, visit CASI’s website at www.chili.org.

“If the chili cooks are having a good weekend, they actually earn enough points in our cook-off alone to go Terlingua for the nationals. You place Friday, Saturday and Sunday and get enough points you qualify,” Wyckoff said, noting that people start arriving at 8 a.m. Friday and the event closes at 4 p.m. Sunday. There are camping facilities available on-site, he said.

Friday night features the first round of chili competition, as well as the preliminary round of the local celebrity mechanical bull riding competition, at about 6:30 p.m.

Saturday night’s barn dance is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to midnight. General admission is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. General admission including a prime rib dinner is $30 per person. Schedule of events for the barn dance: 6:30-7 p.m. – hors d’oeuvres; 7-8:30 p.m. – prime rib dinner; 8:30 p.m. live auction of Super Bowl tickets; 9 p.m. – mechanical bull riding finals; 10 p.m. – silent auction closes.

“We need support from the community – coming out and judging chili, donations for the silent auction, riding the bull or cheering your rider on, table sponsors. You can be a cook, a judge, you can help set up. Just being there and being involved to support the event,” Wyckoff said, noting the event has been successful due to the support of the community.

Nay agrees.

“A lot of volunteers come out and donate their time and their efforts to make it a successful event. It speaks tons and tons about our community and how supportive they are for a good cause. Like with anything else, without that community support you just can’t do it. I’d have to say a special thanks to the community for all their involvement. That’s what makes the event so successful year after year after year,” Nay said.

Wyckoff said even in the soft economy, attendance and support has remained constant.

“I appreciate Jackie and Terry seeking me out 10 years to discuss a joint event; little did we know how big it would become. I wish I could say we all planned it that way,” Wyckoff said.

For additional information about the event or available sponsorships, visit www.elliscountycac.org or e-mail john.eccac@ectisp.net or call 972-937-1870.

The list of this year’s local celebrity mechanical bull riders:

MEN

• Adrian Sanchez – Citizens National Bank   

• Todd Evans  – The Gingerbread House

• Jeremy Gordon – Ellis County District Attorney’s Office

• Charlie Cornwell - CNB               

• Eric Stephens – CNB

• Mike Navarro – Ellis County Auditor’s Office

• Austin Arms – Ark Country Store

• Jeff Hughes – BAT Security Systems

• Corey Girman – Vintage Bank

• Dr. Matt Bayazitoglu

• Andrew Perdue – Perdue Enterprises

• Zack Tucker          

• Corey Allman

• Bill Howell: 4H Windy Stables         

• Casey Odom – Boyce Gin and Grain         

• Canyon Wilder – Target         

• Paul Dodson – Coal City Cob          

• Ashley Spurlock     

• Jeff Michelson

• Neal White – Waxahachie Daily Light

WOMEN

• Rachel Underwood – Ark Country Store        

• Megan Perdue – Vintage Bank                 

• Chivon Rodriguez  - CNB               

• Donna Wayson Jeffreys

• Ashley Hill – Citizens National Bank          

• Candice Jones – ARK Country Store          

• Krista Pierce – ARK Country Store           

• Chelsea McKibbon – Waxahachie Daily Light

Daily Light staff writer Rebecca Hertz contributed to this article.

Contact JoAnn at joann@wninews.com or 469-517-1452.