By Joe Stumpe | October 26, 2018

Red Hat Society members claim trophy on first try

It took Sandra Whittemore five years to persuade her fellow Red Hatters to enter the Wichita Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff.

Maybe next time they’ll listen.

Members of the Red Hat Society chapter took home the Cecile Kellenbarger Team Spirit Trophy (named for the late biking trail advocate) at this fall’s cookoff, besting some 80 other teams in the process. “We are Red Hatters,” she said. “We may all be over 50, but we have spunk.”

Their chili won some admirers, too. 

“We didn’t get into hot chili,” Whittemore said. “Just good old standard chili. It’s ‘grandma’s chili.”

Founded as a social club for women age 50 and beyond, the Red Hat Society today is open to all ages and has some 50,000 members in 30 countries around the world. 

“We go out on outings, meet once a month and have a dinner,” Whittemore said of her chapter, which is headed by “Queen” Connie Pearl.

Members spent a month fashioning a 10-by-8 feet red hat out of wire and paper mache to top their booth. Another half-dozen prepared 12 gallons of chili, and more pitched in to serve. In addition to the hat, members made up cheers to impress the thousands of people thronging the cookoff.

“I don’t know what all they were saying,” Whittemore said. “I was busy stirring chili so it wouldn’t burn.”



1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

1 lb. ground chuck, 80-20 percent

1 can kidney beans

1 can pinto beans

1 can tomatoes

1 can tomato soup (condensed)

1 small can tomato sauce (5 oz.)

1 can Rotel tomatoes with chiles (original)

3 tablespoons chile powder

1 can water

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon black pepper

In a pot, heat oil and saute onion until soft, adding garlic near end of cooking time. Add meat and brown, breaking up any large chunks; do not drain fat. Add remaining ingredients, including liquid from cans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until desired consistency is reached. Taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary, and serve.