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Best Painesville Chili & 66th India Republic Dinner

On Saturday, January 24th, our first event was the City of Painesville's 2015 Annual Chili Cook-Off held in the Senior Center on North Park Place. Even though we are vegetarians we decided to attend because, generally, it is a safe bet to find at least one contestant offering a form of vegetarian chili but today we lost that bet because there was not a one. So instead of eating any chili ourselves, we walked around and visited with other people who were eating chili. The coordinator of this event was Mr. Chris Marker of the Recreation Department who told us that this was the 11th year for the cook-off and he has been involved in 8 or 9 of them. On this day there were 200 to 300 people who came here to sample the chili of 22 contestants, 19 of which were non-professionals who made chili just because they liked to make chili with such colorful names as Goldy's Sweet and Spicy Chili, Ring of Fire Chili, Black Sheep Chili, Ruddy Rye Chili and Katie's Killer Chili which was made by Painesville City Councilwoman Katie Jenkins;another city council member who had an entry was Paul Hach, Jr.

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Competing again today was last year's grand prize winner, Ms. Mary Jo Miller of the Bella Dona Salon and Spa who was there with her crew. Ms. Miller knows Ms. Wong well and introduced us to her daughter, Ms. Maria Rowan who used to handle our collections years ago when she worked at Weltman, Weinberg and Reis and her last name was Pisanick. Since then Ms. Rowan has become a Lake County prosecutor and sends her best to Ms. Wong.

Another person who we talked to was a man named Philip who works for Abbot Labs. He has been to China and Hong Kong many times and considers them both to be fascinating places with fast-growing economies who are trying to be just like the United States. Philip knows a lot of people in China who would love to immigrate to the United States so we gave him our information.

The people who were working and participating in the chili cook-off were doing so because they considered it a nice opportunity for the Painesville community to get together and have a good time in the winter months. On this day it was cold with temperatures in the 30's but last year a blizzard raged outside and the temperature was down in the single digits so not nearly as many people turned out then as they did today.

Everyone that we talked to was sorry that there was no vegetarian chili there but they all agreed that it might be worthwhile to create such a category for next year.

From our standpoint, it turned out to be just as well that there was no vegetarian chili at the Painesville Chili Cook-Off because it gave us room to eat more at the 66th Annual India Republic Dinner that was held Saturday night at Embassy Suites in Independence. We have been to this event before and we, and quite a few other people, always find the appetizers to be so good that we are full by the time that we go in for dinner. Thus on this evening, we enjoyed chili paneer tikka, stuffed mushrooms, and samosa when we first arrived and those who liked meat and fish had amritsar fish pakoda and spicy reshmi kebab.

After the appetizers, we sat down for a while and had a pleasant visit with Dr. Yalavarthy from the Cleveland Clinic and his wife, Vanita who both immigrated to the United States from India about five years ago and live in Solon. They told us that if we wanted to enjoy a good Indian meal in the Cleveland area then we should go to Priya Indian Cuisine on Chevrolet Blvd. Another person connected with Solon that we talked to was Ms. Anu Krishnan who works at Venture Lighting there. Her boss is Mr. Ken Hawley who knows Ms. Wong.

It was a little after 7PM when the program finally started and we were quite proud of our friend, Mr. Kenneth J. Kovach who sang the National Anthem of the United States quite beautifully. The U.S. National Anthem was followed by the National Anthem of the Republic of India that was sung by the Indian Community Youth. They were followed by a spirited band named "Shlok" who performed some "patriotic songs of India" at this time and would be back later in the program to perform "some popular Indian melodies."

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It was then time Dr. Ramesh Gehani from the University of Akron to present two awards. The first award was the "Outstanding Service Award" which went to Dr. Sanjay Garg who is heavily involved with Shiksha Daan (The Gift of Education) which provides assistance in the areas of education and development to the underprivileged young people in the Greater Cleveland Community. We were very happy for Dr. Garg because we had spoken with him earlier in the evening and we can attest to his dedication to helping others. Next was the "Friend of Community Award" which was presented to our very good friend Mr. Dan Hanson. Dr. Gehani said that Mr. Hanson's websites such as "glue communities together" and he respected Mr. Hanson who believes that the "identities of different communities need to be documented and celebrated." Mr. Hanson said that he was very "surprised and honored" to receive this award because he was a longtime admirer of the Indian community because it believes in giving back to the Cleveland community as a whole.

We really liked what our friend Dr. Asim Datta, President of the Executive Board of FICA, had to say about why we were all there celebrating Indian Republic Day. Dr. Datta said that "there is much to be proud of! Most all nations in the world achieve independence through great sacrifices of its citizens, and it has been the same for the Indians. However, since choosing to adopt a constitution on 26th January in 1950, creating a democratic structure of society, the nation has come a long way in a mere 66 years. The incredible successes achieved in this relatively short time is a long way in a mere 66 years. The incredible successes achieved in this relatively short time is a testimony to the character of its people. In a land about a third of the size of the United States, with over 1.2 billion people (more than three times that of the United States) naturally the challenges have been enormous. But through the hard days of nation building, democracy has prevailed. In the general election last year, over 70% of India's citizens voted, and brought radical changes in peaceful transitions. The advancements in economic, scientific, educational and social areas have given the world pause, to stop, understand, reflect and appreciate. And that is what we celebrate today. The pride and affection for our heritage. Long live the oldest and the largest democracies in the world!"

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