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911 Chili Cook-Off Draws Record Crowd Supporting Claire Byars

by | Feb 26, 2017 | Breaking News, City News, Community, County News, Cullman, Cullman City, Cullman Tonight, EMS, People

911 Chili Cook-Off Draws Record Crowd Supporting Claire Byars

The second year of the 911 Chili Cook-Off saw a significant leap in attendance and charitable donations Saturday.

See ALL images from this amazing event here.

Cullman Emergency Medical Services (CEMS) presented the 2017 version of their 9-1-1 Chili Cook-Off at their facility in heart of downtown Cullman between 11 am and 2 pm.

Law enforcement, fire department, and emergency medical response agencies from across Cullman County participated (see roster below). They offered the general public some of their most tasty and coveted chili recipes.

Each bowl was served for the incredibly low price of $1.00.

911 Chili Cook-Off Draws Record Crowd Supporting Claire Byars

Right at 600 people came through the doors of Cullman EMS for these $1 bowls of chili in support of young Claire Byars.

As expected there was stiff competition among the various agencies seeking to win the three awards made available to the various chili chefs:

★ People’s Choice (from a tally of $1 ticket stubs placed in a jar at each team’s table).

★ Director’s Choice (as determined by the palate of Cullman EMS Director James Curtis)

★ Hottest Chili

911 Chili Cook-Off Draws Record Crowd Supporting Claire Byars

While there was not a bad batch of chili offered, some of the emergency response agency Chefs entered in this event stood out and were recognized for their superior recipes:

Sgt. Daniel Cummings representing Cullman County Sheriffs Office DEFENDED his title once again winning the People’s Choice Award with an exotic bacon chili cheeseburger creation.

Melanie Jones & Roger Henry representing Cullman EMS and AMD took 2nd place.

Adam Taylor representing multiple agencies got 3rd place.

In the Director’s Choice category, Cinderella Story entrant Jared Johnson
of Logan Fire & Rescue came out of nowhere to win this trophy.

The HOTTEST Chili went to the Partners In Crime foursome of Dawn Holmes, Jennifer Young, Donnie Holmes and Jake Chumley (who was stuck in his dispatch bunker and could not attend).

A variety of sweet door prizes were also given out during the event. Hanceville Fire & Resue Chief Rodger Green was the supreme winner in this category. Green took home an expensive weekend trip to Mountain Loft Resort in Gatlinburg.

911 Chili Cook-Off Draws Record Crowd Supporting Claire Byars

In this interview, we speak with Sergeant Daniel Cummings representing Cullman County Sheriff’s Office. Cummings swept last year’s awards and as mentioned above repeated as the coveted People’s Choice winner in 2017. We also chat with Cullman EMS paramedic, Melanie Jones, who is the grandmother of Claire Byars:


The multi-talented Dawn Holmes who coordinated the event explained the reasons the 911 Chili Cook-Off originally came into being:

“We created this event last year so that all emergency responders could get together in a non-emergency, non-work environment and interact personally with each other. We also thought it would be a great idea to invite the citizens we serve on a daily basis to come out and meet their emergency responders from across the County. Throw in great food, some healthy competition with all the proceeds going to great charity causes … and we thought we had a winning recipe.

Today’s turnout and community involvement prove we are on to something here.”

Proceeds from this 2nd annual event will go to support the challenging medical and travel expenses being racked up by Jeff and Heather Byars as they seek a cure for their daughter, Claire.

At the time of this report, the final charitable contributions are not fully tallied. Nonetheless, it is clear that 2017 proceeds far exceeded 2016 with charity in the form of substantial heartfelt donations coming from beyond ticket sales and raffle ticket purchases.

Moneyman for the event Maurice Reynolds of Logan Fire & Rescue along with money woman Mary Willingham of Cullman EMS never had time to leave their ticket sales booth at the front door. According to Reynolds:

“I am sure glad people brought us over some chili. We didn’t hardly move for the whole three hours. We are grateful for the steady stream of support that everyone brought to the cook-off. I think it is safe to say this event was a major success.”

911 Chili Cook-Off Draws Record Crowd Supporting Claire Byars

Claire ‘Claire Bear’ Byars has been waging a 2 year battle with a condition that has been diagnosed with an unusual malignant germ cell tumor known as an Immature Teratoma, or IMT. The tumor is located in a precarious location in her small body which rules out surgical removal. As a result, her medical treatment requires her to undergo an ongoing combination of chemotherapies as well as traditional and nontraditional treatments.

The costs monetarily incurred have been incredibly substantial, already adding up to over $3 million with no immediate end in sight.

Claire is currently in Pennsylvania at the Children’s Hospital with her father Jeff. Mother Heather remains in Cullman County to maintain daily household responsibilities as well as the critical matter of staying employed in order to retain medical insurance with her job.

Jeff Byars is the at-large EMS Officer for the Cullman County Fire Association. Heather Byars is an EMR (Emergency Medical Responder). Both are listed as professionally inactive in order to provide ongoing care for Claire.

911 Chili Cook-Off Draws Record Crowd Supporting Claire Byars

Here is the roster of all the individuals and agencies that took time and effort to enter the field as competing Chefs:
Partner In Crime
Dawn Holmes, Jennifer Young,

Team Roger Jones
Melanie Jones & Roger Henry
Cullman EMS and AMED

Logan Fire & Rescue
Maurice Reynolds
Jared Johnson

Salt & Peppa BBQ
Nathaniel and Anna Frederick
Marshall EMS

Vinemont-Providence Fire Department

Cullman County Sheriff’s Office
Daniel Cummings
Chris Villa

Robbins Family
Ron, Gayla, Lee & LaShay Robbins
Bethsadia Volunteer Fire Department

Hanceville Fire & Rescue
Rodger & Shawn Green with Barbie Blake

Hanceville Fire & Rescue
Bart Absher

Hanceville Fire & Rescue
Derek Bennefield

Regional Paramedical Services
Steve Dyson

Adam Taylor
Cullman Fire Rescue, Cullman EMS & Logan Fire & Rescue

Cullman Fire Rescue – Station 1, B Shift
Keith Bates, Caleb Terry, Kelsey Taylor, Wade Miller, Neville Franks

Although it has not been officially announced, the 3rd annual 911 Chili Cook-Off is expected to return in 2018 at the same venue in the month of February!

911 Chili Cook-Off Draws Record Crowd Supporting Claire Byars

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Timothy Collins

Originally from Asheville, NC, Timothy brings an insightful holistic perspective as well as a mountain man tenacity to his various roles at Cullman Today. You can reach him at and/or (256) 615-8260.

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