Atlantic Highlands, NJ –  It took a few years but Atlantic Highlands resident Daniel Thurman returned to the top of the Chilifest charts with his “CincoOcho” chili. The CincoOcho refers to the five different kinds of meat and the eight varieties of homegrown peppers used in his recipe. Thurman, the Best in ’Fest Winner in 2004 has seen the Front Porch Club Chilifest evolve over the past six years.
“It feels great to be the first two-time Chilifest champ. When I won back in 2004, Chilifest was a lot smaller and there wasn’t a trophy like there is today. I’ll proudly be displaying it on my mantle until next year’s event. I think my edge this year was my use of homegrown chili peppers. I’ve grown chili peppers as a hobby for about 12 years. Thanks to the amazing variety that offers, I was able to incorporate eight complementary flavors that produced a winning result.”
Over 600 attendees sampled 55 chili recipes and enjoyed the Rockin’ Rum Bar at the 6th Annual Atlantic Highlands Front Porch Club Chilifest. For those with more conservative palates the ’Fest also offered hot dogs and sandwiches and snacks for kids. Three local bands entertained the crowd, drawing inspiration from this year’s “60s” theme.
Traditionally, the Front Porch Club Chilifest donates the proceeds from Chilifest to a local charity. This year’s event helped raise money for is a new program at the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School that incorporates outdoor gardening and classroom curriculum to teach students about nutrition, sustainability and team work. This year’s event raised a record $7,000 for the program.
The Front Porch Club also donated $1,800 to last year’s cause, the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society, for again hosting the event at the Strauss Mansion on Prospect Circle in Atlantic Highlands. Laurie Brekke, Co-Founder of, was overwhelmed with the support local residents showed for Chilifest and the program.
“We are truly overwhelmed and grateful for the outpouring of community support for the Learning Garden that we’re installing at Atlantic Highlands Elementary School. So many parents and townspeople stopped at our table to talk to us about their excitement at the prospect of having such a valuable hands-on learning experience for their children at the school. As Hope Hanlon and I believe so strongly in the value of this program, we are volunteering our time; funding from community groups, such as the Front Porch Club, only reinforces our decision to start this program.”
Charlotte Magee, Chairperson of Chilifest for the Front Porch Club, tried to sum up just what Chilifest has come to mean to this community, “People look forward to this party all year long; and it’s a great platform for our local businesses to build their clientele.”
Musing over the music coming from the Strauss Mansion’s porch, Front Porch Club Founder Benson Chiles, added, “The Chilifest is a great example of the random brilliance you find in Atlantic Highlands. Talented, interesting people from all over the country eating chili and drinking rum, while listening to local musicians play songs from Austin, Texas.”
Entertainment was provided by Johnny Mercer County, Joe Niederberger and the Chilidogs, and Mick Burke and Friends.
Prizes were also awarded to Atlantic Highlands residents Judy Crowley, People’s Choice Award; Jerry Delaney, Most Exotic Chili; and Sarah Chiles, Best Vegetarian. Adam Sanders and his partner Toby Noding took second place and Denise Young placed in third the judges’ voting for the Best in ’Fest. This year’s judging panel consisted of Marie Jackson, owner of the Flaky Tart, John Mahoney, last year’s champion, Atlantic Highlands Mayor Frederick Rast, Chef Zeet Peabody and the President of the Atlantic Highlands Chamber of Commerce, Chuck Lero.
Chilifest 2010’s Platinum Sponsors were Howley Financial Group, Stokaboka Surf and Skate and Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. Chilifest was also made possible by the generous support of the following businesses: Atlantic Bagel Company, Blue Bay Inn, Bottle King , Bright Alternatives, Atlantic Highlands Chamber of Commerce, Defined Logic, Eastpointe Health & Fitness, Flaky Tart, Happy Hills Learning Center, Homes in Atlantic Highlands, HulaFrog, Jaspan Brothers Hardware, Kelly’s Dance Loft, Kunya Siam Thai Restaurant, Page Chiropractic, Posten’s Funeral Home, Pure Liquid Salon, Seabreeze Cleaners , Seastreak, Sebastian Day Spa, Shore Hands Chiropractic, The Party Dolls, Two River Plumbing, West Marine, Whole Foods, Zoe’s Vintage Kitchen.
The Front Porch Club is a forum for Atlantic Highlands residents to socialize with neighbors, interact with the community and discuss new ideas and issues. The Front Porch Club exists to improve the quality of life in Atlantic Highlands by bringing people together online and in person. Please visit for more information and a calendar of events.

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Avatar of Allan Dean

Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...