Jan. 8, 2007

Winsted airport's chili feed fundraiser

By Jenni Sebora

Almost everyone enjoys a good bowl of chili on a cold winter day. And where better to enjoy chili and all the fixings than in a heated hangar at the Winsted Municipal Airport.

The 10-member airport commission is hosting its 11th annual fund raiser chili feed on Saturday, Jan. 13.

The menu consists of chili and the fixings, a baked potato, a beverage, including coffee, milk, water and pop, and usually a dessert is served.

Everyone is invited to attend the event, pilots and non-pilots alike.

“You don’t have to have a plane to enjoy the chili,” current Winsted airport commission chair Russ Paschke said.

Last year, 90 planes flew in for the fund raiser.

“We had good attendance last year – we had good weather,” Paschke said.

“It was incredible (attendance) last year. We ran out of everything,” airport commission member Carol Kappel said.

Although attendance is somewhat dependent on weather conditions, and not every year draws as large a crowd as last year, Kappel says that the commission has never lost money on the event.

“We’ve always made a little money,” Kappel said. “We’ve always had good crowds.”

If there’s enough snow on the ground, the event attracts ski planes as well, Paschke added.

It’s the commission that’s in charge of the whole event from start to finish, from publicity to the cooking to the clean-up. Every commission member does their part.

“It’s (the chili feed) a lot of work. We (commission members) work well together,” Kappel said.

Kappel recalls the first years she was helping with the feed, having to use someone’s home near the airport to heat the potatoes in his oven.

“You learn as you go along,” Kappel said. Now they purchase the potatoes already baked.

One thing that has not changed much over the course of the event’s longevity, though, is the recipe used to make the chili.

Paschke noted that the commission has been using the same chili recipe, with minor alterations here and there, since the first year the event began, 11 years ago.

The event is publicized locally and beyond including sending flyers to other airports and publicizing the event in a magazine about flying.

Although the commission is in charge of the chili feed, volunteers assist with the event as well, such as the local Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts help with such duties as parking cars and serving coffee.

“We usually give them (the Scouts) a donation for helping out,” Paschke said.

As the chili feed is the airport commission’s main fundraiser, proceeds from the feed help fund improvements to the airport.

Such improvements have included the purchase of a new furnace for the airport office as well as new carpet, paint, and air conditioning.

Whatever is spent on the airport comes from state and federal funding or is paid for by the people renting the hangars or buying fuel at the airport, and from such events as the chili feed.

Aside from the chili feed, the commission’s job is to basically govern and oversee the airport, Paschke explained.

The commission evaluates the airport’s needs, shares concerns at monthly meetings, and makes recommendations to the Winsted city council regarding airport improvements.

Annually evaluating and presenting a 10-year plan regarding the airport to the FAA and the Minnesota Department of Transportation is another task of the commission.

Kappel noted that the commission receives help from city clerk Deb Boelter with this plan as well as with applying for grants and other duties of the commission.

“Deb attends all our meetings. She works very closely with us,” Kappel said.

Much of the commission’s monthly meeting agendas depend on what is going on with the airport. Pilots’ interest in having a hangar at the airport has been and continues to be an agenda item.

There are presently 38 hangars located at the airport. The hangars are all privately owned. Each hangar owner pays rent on the property the hangar is built on. And Kappel sees the number increasing.

There are currently three more hangars under construction with the potential for approximately 30 more, Boelter noted.

The county’s first airport, Winsted airport, has been in operation for more than 40 years and continues to be a busy airport. It has more landings than the Hutchinson or Glencoe airports.

The first airport commission was appointed on Jan. 2, 1962, which included former Winsted city attorney Dick Genty, Lanny Fasching of Sterner Lighting and Dave Laurence of Pure Milk.

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