APPLING - Casey Lane, 5, huddled between her siblings Saturday and watched a guitar-strumming Okefenokee Joe sing a song about the outdoors.
"Didja know," the award-winning naturalist lilted,"that there's seven different kinds of stinging caterpillars living out here in the swamp?"
The giggling Martinez girl joined hundreds of others who turned out for the 13th annual Cookin' for Kids competition held at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in conjunction with the Exchange Club Fair.
The event, which attracted eight cooking teams, is a primary fund-raiser for the non-profit Shelter & Advocacy Center for Abused Children, said Nicole Sisk, the events coordinator.
Gerda Davis, a paralegal for an Augusta law firm, relied on her German lineage to prepare a family favorite: venison goulash. Her backup dish, entered into the fish category, was catfish stew.
"I basically open up the spice cabinet and try a little of everything," she said, doling out shotglass-sized portions of stew to visitors.
Her team - Kill it/Grill It - later took first-place prize in the fish category.
Butch Holley and three fellow chefs cooked up their favorite: marinated loin of venison, wrapped in bacon and grilled to perfection. "The thing I push is preparation," said team member Roswell McRae.
Alissa Bennett, 6, rides a pony at the Columbia County Exchange Club Fair.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The preparation paid off. Holey's team, called Men-O-Paws, captured the coveted first-place in the big game category.
Other first-place winners Saturday were Mark Allison's Hot Stuff team, which won the chili category; and Richard Johnson's Big Daddy's team, capturing both the barbecue and small game categories.
The winners received plaques and the prestige associated with vanquishing a most worthy group of competitors. And the public had an opportunity to sample fine cuisine and enjoy live reptiles and other creatures presented by award winning naturalist Okefenokee Joe and Tim Seegars' "Animals that Educate" program.
But the real winners were the kids.
The Shelter & Advocacy Center, a 41-person non-profit organization, spends it dollars - and its time - helping law enforcement and social service agencies care for abused or neglected children.
In addition to an emergency shelter that can care for as many as 16 children, the center provides forensic services for abuse cases investigated by law enforcement; and maintains a counseling program for sexual assault victims.
"This event is vitally important to us, and to the children we try to help," said Dan Hillman, the advocacy center's executive director.
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