The Grand Champion winners were the Hookness family with their “Pepperhead Chili.”

River Hills residents recently found a delicious way to spend time together as a community. Last month, the golf course subdivision located in Valrico held its first Chili Cook-Off attended by more than 200 residents.

“After a few months of planning, several committee meetings and even more volunteers, residents of all ages gathered on the back patio of the River Hills Country Club for this hot event on what seemed like the hottest day of the year,” said River Hills Social Team Co Chairperson Julie Rule.

The 12 chili entries were judged by five long-time River Hills residents and winners were chosen in four categories: Spiciest, Most Original, People’s Choice and Grand Champion.

“The Grand Champion was awarded the coveted green apron, and all four of the winners received an embossed spoon with their winning category,” said Rule. “Each of them has definitely earned bragging rights.”

The winner in the Spiciest category was the Kile family with their “Hotter Than Yo Mama” chili, the Most Original Award went to John Tesmer with his “Big John’s Ol Red Chili,” Barbel Lebel won in the People’s Choice category with “German Chili” and the Grand Champion was the Hookness family with their “Pepperhead Chili.”

In addition to the chili tasting for attendees, the Junior ROTC from Newsome High School volunteered to coordinate and run all of the children’s activities, including cornhole, sticker art, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and more.

“Families and their children seemed to enjoy the festivities from beginning to end,” said Rule.

Hot dogs and beverages were available for purchase and the River Hills HOA provided complimentary fresh seasonal Strawberry Shortcake for dessert.

“The event showcased what we are striving for on the Social Team; adults, children, fun and community building, all the things we want when we think of home,” said River Hills resident and Cook-Off Event Chair Andrea Heeps.

The Cook-Off was the first of many events the River Hills Social Team will be planning for residents this year. Anyone interested in volunteering for an upcoming event or for more information about the Social Team should email

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.