Poland Rotary to Hold 30th Annual Chili Open Feb. 21

OLAND, Ohio — More than three decades ago, Larry Warren and some of his fellow Rotarians had the same response — “What?!?” – when a founder of the club told of a golf event he had participated in on a frozen lake near Akron. He suggested the Poland Rotary do the same thing here.

“We didn’t have a lake big enough that was frozen so we used a variety of places over the years,” Warren remembers.

This year, the Poland Rotary’s Chili Open celebrates its 30th anniversary. Over that time, the event – which Brandon Davis, this year’s chairman of the Chili Open, likens to “a tailgate party, for lack of a better description” — has raised more than $1 million for charity, he reports. This anniversary is “really a milestone for us,” he remarks.
Staged in all kinds of weather, from a balmy 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 5 below zero with wind chills of minus 30 and lower, Warren says, this year’s event is scheduled for Feb. 21 at Bedford Trails Golf Course in Coitsville. The sites have been as varied as the weather.

Cost is $25 per person for the open, which features 18 holes of golf with tee times beginning at 10 a.m., a putting contest, a chili-eating contest and other activities.

“Literally dozens of golfers turn out,” Davis says. “There’s a lot of laughing, a lot of people being silly,” he adds. “It’s really just an opportunity for the community to come together and get together in the doldrums of February and turn it into a good day.”

Over its history, the event has been featured in The Rotarian magazine and on the Weather Channel.

This year’s event will benefit 16 nonprofit agencies in the region. Among them are Inspiring Minds, Yellow Brick Place, Sojourner House, Sister Jerome’s Poor at the Ursuline Center, Mission of Love, Second Harvest Food Bank, Hospice of the Valley and the Boys & Girls Club.

“We run the gamut of organizations that are representing children all the way up to the elderly,” Davis says. “The money that we raise here stays in the Mahoning Valley. And that’s extremely important to us as an organization.”

The 2015 open has a dozen companies supporting it, Warren reports. This year’s title sponsors are Sweeney Chevrolet and Republic Services.

The Poland Rotary, which acquired the rights to the Chili Open in 1989, licenses those rights to other communities interested in staging their own, including Columbus and Strongsville in Ohio and Salt Lake City. Poland Rotary has pitched the event to Rotary clubs with more than 500 members who “back away from it,” pleading they lack the resources to stage one, Warren says.

“I think it’s a testimony to the Mahoning Valley that a small club with 30 members can consistently do this and raise over $1 million during the life of the project,” he adds.

Information about the open, including registration forms, is available online here as well as on its Facebook page.

Pictured: Larry Warren, Dan Dull, Brandon Davis, MaryAnn Carano and Andrew Grischow get ready for the Poland Rotary Club’s Chili Open, Feb. 21 at Bedford Trails Golf Course in Coitsville.

Copyright 2015 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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