By JESSICA RHODES
For the Express
 
PERTH — The Helping Paws Animal Rescue hosted its fourth annual Chili Chowder Festival at the Perthshire Banquet Hall on Sunday, with a record turnout of people looking to support the rescue and try out different varieties of chili, chowder and baked goods.
“I’m just astounded, I’m so happy,” said Karen Kiaunis, director of the rescue, about the turnout this year. She said the group had reached its goal of $2,000 by 1:30 p.m., more than the fundraiser has ever taken in.
A $10 ticket allowed guests to sample six types of chili, six types of chowder, and nine different baked goods created by community members and local restaurants; with all proceeds going to the animal rescue for vet bills and food. A variety of raffle items and a 50/50 raffle were also part of the festivities.
In the end, the crowd favorites were Ryan Schlicht’s Achilles’ Chili; Sandy Izzo’s Charlie’s Cheesy Chicken Chowder; and Val Popielarz’s Alice’s Awesome Oreo Balls.
Hummingbird Hills Winery was a supporter at the event, donating bottles of wine for the raffles and offering samples to visitors. Aaron Bloom and Lori Crandall of Aaron’s Roaming Reptiles brought two alligators and other reptiles to entertain guests at the event.
“We’re animal lovers,” said Ken Schick of Hummingbird Hills. “We try to do a lot for the community if we can.”
Bloom has worked with the rescue for years, he said, helping out with rescued reptiles and participating in fundraisers, but this was his first Chili Chowder Festival.
“Anything that involves food and alcohol is a big sell,” said Kiaunis of the success of the event. “And this year when we did the Northville seizure — there was a condemned building up in Northville where we took 30 dogs out of it and 11 cats — that kind of put us on the map because we’re a private group … so people don’t know us well. And then after that seizure people know who we are, so I think the turnout is a lot better. Usually we get dribs and drabs throughout the entire day, but this year we had people waiting at the door.”
Helping Paws is a not-for-profit rescue taking in animals from relinquishments and for hospice patients who can no longer care for their pets, regardless of species.
“It’s a local rescue so I wanted to support the event today,” said Sally Cope of Broadalbin. “I brought my chili- and chowder-loving friends.”
And Cope’s friend Janelle Kopsick wasn’t disappointed with the chilies and chowders in the contest.
“I like the Cock and Bull chili and Scott Young’s Chicken Lovin’ Tortilla Chowder,” she said. “He had a sweet story about his cat, too, so I might have been swayed by his love of his cat.”
Young, like many contestants, did the contest in honor of a pet. His cat, Noel, passed away a year ago, so he made his football tailgate chili in her memory.
Jack Popielarz, 17, of Fort Johnson and his family made Oreo balls in honor of their dog Alice, whom they adopted from the shelter. They have been volunteering there for three years.
And Barbara Aldi of Rotterdam Junction made rum cake and chocolate kiddie cones, in honor of her Chihuahua Bingo who came from the Northville seizure.
“You meet her and you love her, you’ll want to help her,” said Aldi of Kiaunis. “This is the best one so far I think.”
Kevin Brown of Gloversville, the chili champion from last year, agreed.
“So far it’s much better than last year,” said Brown, who made 20 pounds of chili that was almost gone by 2 p.m. “I’ve adopted at least four or five animals from them. It’s a good cause and that’s why we’re here. The shelter’s fantastic. I don’t know how they do it. It’s just one of those things where you can’t say no.”
Log on www.helpingpawsrescue.com for more information.