Forecast calls for chili

LA CRESCENTA — Finding the perfect mouthwatering chili recipe can be a lengthy quest for some home cooks.

But North Hollywood resident Shawn Harris, 39, didn't have to look long for his Texas Chili Con Carne, which took home the top prize at Saturday's inaugural La Crescenta Library Chili Cook Off. He won a $25 Trader Joe's gift card and crown made by the library's staff.

Harris learned the chili recipe while living in Texas nearly 20 years ago.

"I was a teenager when I got it and having been cooking it ever since," he said. "Everybody has been saying it is good."

Harris joined the cook-off after his fiancee's daughter, who volunteers at the library, urged him to partake in the contest.

Harris' dish was one of 11 entries at the cook-off, which event organizers said was created to attract more residents into the library.

"We always try to have more events here at the library to draw more people in," said Chase McMunn, the adult services librarian. "We think of ourselves as a community resource, so we try to select different types of programming that lots of people find interesting."

Library attendance has dropped from 25,000 people per month to 23,000 during the summer because fewer students have been using it, McMunn said.

The $14.6-million library opened in January in the 2800 block of Foothill Boulevard after residents lobbied for an expansion of the old library, which they said was too small to meet the area's needs.

The two-story, 15,000-square-foot facility features separate adult and children's book sections, public computers, group study rooms and a community meeting room, which hosted the chili cook-off.

Library staff said hosting the cook-off brought more residents to visit the new building and gave them a chance to learn about the many services offered there.

During the summer, the library offers a reading program and Japanese flower arrangement classes, officials said.

Some of the programs are supported through funds donated to the facility by the Friends of La Crescenta Library, which formed in 1979.

The organization, which is supported through annual dues, auctioned off gifts baskets during the cook-off to raise funds for library programs.

The organization's funds support about $6,000 in library programs annually, another $6,000 is allocated to buying books, and $3,000 to $4,000 goes to buying supplies and materials, librarian Marta Wiggins said.

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