Neal Communities, Southwest Florida’s premier, private homebuilder, was a $10,000 sponsor of this year’s 2023 Parrish Heritage Day Parade & Chili Cook Off Festival.
The 2023 Parrish Heritage Day Parade & Chili Cook Off Festival, hosted annually by the Parrish Civic Association and The Parrish Foundation, took place on Saturday, March 25th on the grounds of the Florida Railroad Museum. Attendees were invited to enjoy delicious food, live music, arts and crafts displays and kid-friendly activities. Attendants were given a card upon entrance, allowing them to cast their vote for the best chili after sampling.
“This is an annual fun, family-friendly event that not only helps the whole community come together, but also provides support for both the Parish Civic Association and The Parrish Foundation,” said Pat Neal, founder and president of Neal Communities.
Funds raised during the event are used to provide community enhancements, including a future Parrish Community Park and grants to local nonprofit organizations that are serving the Parrish community.
Members of the Neal Communities team enjoy participating in the festival each year. Last year, Neal Communities team was first runner-up in the chili cook-off. This year, the team received a Judges First in Show Award for Best Team and Booth and an Overall Grand Champion for People’s Choice Award for chili.
“We were thrilled that we received the People’s Choice Award, which meant that people voted for our chili as being the best,” said Jennifer Joslin, design gallery manager for both Neal Signature Homes and Neal Communities.
This was Joslin’s second year on the team. As a co-captain, she was one of the eight members of the Neal Communities’ team, which included six other company employees and her husband, Karl. Her husband served as the head chef.
Each team member was assigned supplies to bring, including the different chili ingredients. The morning of the festival, everyone gathered at 6 a.m. to prepare pots with ingredients as the chili must be made on-site with meat ready to cook by 7 a.m.
While Joslin’s husband cooked and ensured the chili was ready for judges to pick up by 10 a.m., the team decorated their booth, using a company-branded tablecloth, fun decorations and vibrant colors where attendants could relax and enjoy their food. To offer a fun experience for an entire family, the team also brought in trays of candy for children.
“We always add trays of candy because kids bring their parents, and parents vote on the chili,” Joslin said.
When the gates opened to the public at 11 a.m., the team knew there would be quite the crowd to feed. While teams need to make a minimum of 10 gallons for the event, the Neal Communities team created 15 gallons of chili, wanting to have enough so every guest would have the chance to enjoy the chili. Throughout the day, the team worked together to serve the hundreds of people who attended the festival. Every time a guest cast a vote for Neal as the best chili, the team would ring a bell they brought, drumming up excitement and boosting team morale.
“This was a fun event for us to do. The chili cookoff certainly builds teamwork, camaraderie and friendship,” Joslin said. “But the whole other benefit of this is that we were part of an effort to support the local community.”
Neal Communities has been a longtime supporter of both this event and The Parrish Foundation, with more than $42,000 in past donations.
With a core belief that “Where You Live Matters,” Neal Communities has given more than $7.75 million to local charities throughout Southwest Florida and is committed to the communities where they live, work and build. In Parrish, Neal Communities has built the communities of Silverleaf and Canoe Creek and homes within North River Ranch.