EVANSVILLE, Ind. — As the barricades surrounding the hundreds of bowls were removed, local chili-goers were off to the races at the annual Clay Club Chili Bowl Sale.
Nearly 200 Evansville residents ripped through the rope and tape barriers in front of the University of Evansville’s Hyde Hall lawn for the annual sale benefitting Bread of Life Ministry and the Clay Club.
They selected their chili bowls and stood in line to fill them up with chili provided by Chartwells, the university food service provider that co-sponsored the event.
Todd Matteson, a UE associate art professor, said the organization’s event, which got its start in 2001, brought added attention to the ceramics department.
“It’s good visibility because our ceramics department is growing, and a lot of these bowls that have been made from myself, students or other faculty is a part of the traditions here in Evansville,” he said.
Matteson, who’s also the adviser for the Clay Club, said preparation for the event began in workshops this past summer. However, the last month and a half he said, the student-led organization made over 400 bowls ahead of the annual sale.
“The preparation is always hectic,” Matteson said. “There’s a big process, and each bowl from the beginning to the end takes about 30 minutes total. So 500 bowls and 30 minutes each, then you get the hours of time put into the event.”
Most of the event’s participants purchased $10 handmade bowls, filling them up and adding different spices, cheeses and vegetables to their satisfaction.
Larger bowls from $15-$50 were also being sold. Community members even signed up for a silent auction in hopes of purchasing artistically crafted bowls ranging in price from $60-$100.
By the one-hour mark, all the bowls were purchased and the white chili-filled tubs were nearly empty. Matteson said the Clay Club expects to make roughly $6,000 from the event, which he credits to the students’ hard work and the community’s passion for local tradition.
“We have people that come from two hours away,” Matteson said. “The excitement of them coming here and buying the bowls, they’re not only doing it for themselves but they come because there’s a nostalgia about it. There is the tradition of this event that happens, and I think people outside the UE community see what they can get as part of our history. It’s a major thing.”
Mark Bauer, a third-year mechanical engineering student at UE, heard about it for the first time this year and was excited to take part in the festivities.
“I’m here to eat chili of course, but also to support the other colleges on campus,” Bauer said. “And I’m looking forward to giving this bowl to my grandma back home.”
Half of the sale’s proceeds will be donated to Bread of Life Ministry Inc., a nonprofit organization located in Lynnville. The Clay Club officers selected the Warrick County-based organization for its philanthropy efforts and work in education.
Since its inception in 1973, Bread of Life Ministry Inc. has provided food and clothing to over 1 million people in the Tri-State area. And the nonprofit’s work has even expanded to other areas in Kentucky and Illinois.
“This year we wanted to reach out to an area that we’ve never touched,” Matteson said. “We have two or three students from Warrick County. We knew about the Bread of Life organization, so it was just looking at that.
The Clay Club will use the other half of the event’s proceeds to travel to a national ceramics conference in March.
Matteson said whatever proceeds are leftover from the program will be used for the club’s members to attend museums, buy needed supplies and bring in visiting artists to the university, which will further the growth of the ceramics department and its students he said.