West Virginians are no strangers to mountain rivers, ranging from slow-moving mountain beauties to raging whitewater monsters.

Saturday evening those in downtown Beckley witnessed a whole different type of river, a human one.

Neville and Main Streets were packed from sidewalk to sidewalk with a flow of people that sometimes moved quickly and at other times hit logjams.

The occasion for all the commotion was the annual Chili Night, now in its 27th year.

Event-goers couldn't have asked for a better night, with temperatures in the 70s and a nice breeze blowing through downtown Beckley buildings.

"It's going really well," said Jill Moorefield, the director of Beckley Events, during the festivities. "Hectic, but good."

This year's Chili Night drew more chili booths than ever before and Moorefield hoped that the event would set records.

Last year's event sold out of the 4,000 strips of chili tickets before the night ended, and as the night was beginning Moorefield said that Beckley Events had 5,000 ticket strips printed this year.

As the event was ongoing, Moorefield predicted that the event would again sell out of tickets early for two specific reasons; the before mentioned good weather and the introduction of West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) students into the mix.

According to Jen Wood Cunningham, the director of University Relations at WVU Tech, this year's event was the third year that WVU Tech participated but the first year that WVU Tech has hosted their homecoming in Beckley.

With homecoming events happening all week, Cunningham said that the university wanted to center its homecoming's Saturday evening with a local event.

"We thought it was really important that our first homecoming in Beckley be connected to other community events," Cunningham said.

With this being WVU Tech's first full year exclusively held in the southern West Virginia city, Cunningham said that Chili Night provided the perfect way for students from WVU Tech to become involved in the community.

"Our students love Chili Night," Cunningham said. "It gives them a chance to see a little more about their new hometown and get connected with the folks."

David Kirkpatrick believes that influx of students could really grow Chili Night and the entirety of the downtown area. 

Kirkpatrick, with the Kirkpatrick Law Office, is also opening a video game lounge and cafe on Neville Street and this year's Chili Night proved a good way to get the word out.

"It's good, it's fun, I've had a good time but I'm tired," Kirkpatrick said as he smiled while working his first Chili Night.

The entrepreneur is hoping that the crowd that occupies the city's downtown for Chili Night will begin to frequent the city's downtown area more often.

"It's exciting," Kirkpatrick said. "I'm really optimistic with the college kids coming in downtown, and the city is trying to do things to revitalize the downtown area, I'm in favor of it. I hope it works."

Winners:

Restaurant/Catering

1st Place: Club 3D

2nd Place: Bojangles

3rd: Foster's

Non-restauraunt Business

1st: Jan-Care Ambulance

2nd:Carl Larsen Cancer Center

3rd: Jackie Withrow Hospital

Organization

1st: Beckley ARH

2nd: FOP

3rd: WVU Tech

Individual

1st: Amanda Upton

2nd: Brandy Toller/ Kathy Pannell

People's Choice

1st: Best Ambulance

2nd: Beckley Fire Department/Eckley Orthodontics

3rd: Raleigh County Commission on Aging

Most Samples Served

Best Ambulance

Best Spicy

1st: The Raleigh/ Sir Walter's

2nd: Ghent VFD

3rd: Jackie Withrow Hospital

Best Specialty

1st: Zupa's WVNS

2nd: Jackie Withrow Hospital

3rd: Venus Lounge

Most Exciting Booth

1st: Southern West Virginia Oral Surgeons

2nd: WVU Tech

Most Attractive

1st: Piney Creek Watershed

 2nd: Best Ambulance

-- Email: mcombs@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH

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