Penny’s at the Duke will hold its Third Annual Chili Cook-Off Sunday, Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. at 902 N Dixie Highway in Lantana. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Compass Youth Program.

“We raised over four thousand dollars last year and expect to do at least that well again,” said Penny Johnson, owner of Penny’s at the Duke. “We’ve grown steadily during these three years from an initial $2,800. People really want to support our gay kids.”

According to Penny, there were well over 400 guests last year and she expects to reach 500 this year. “People come down from Stuart,” Johnson said. “And a lot of people come up from Fort Lauderdale.”

Last year Theo Smith led Roosters to victory with a traditional red chili. He prepared two offerings, the ground meat and red beans that won and a “white chili” made with chicken, kale and white beans.

“What really counted,” he continued, “was that so many people came out to enjoy the day and support our kids. And, as an added benefit, we had a good mix of men and women who came together in community.”

A large tent protects the contestants from the sun (and rain). There’s plenty of seating inside and out.

The bar decorates in country style with bales of hay around the property for ambience as well as additional seating. Entertainment is inside and includes celebrity performers Molly Stevens from Nashville and DJ Q spinning the best country music available.

Drag performances including cowboy drag will be on stage all day under the direction of RaeJean Cox and Maxine Massengill. Performers donate their tips to the funds for the youth.

Compass has a booth at the cook-off where people can learn more about the services they offer and how their donations are used to support the LGBT youth in Palm Beach County.

“Because these are unrestricted donations we are able to do a lot more for the youth who come to Compass,” said Youth & Prevention Department Director, Julia Murphy. “We use some of the funds to hold an annual LGBT high school prom where we get over 150 youth from all of the public schools.”

Another major program is the annual Legislation Education Advisory Days (LEAD) in Tallahassee in March. Five to ten youth are selected to go to Tallahassee to meet their legislators. They return with a greater sense of how government works.

“We are truly grateful to Penny’s, the other bars and everyone who comes out to help the youth,” Murphy said. Without these funds our services would be much more constrained.”

There are four official judges who rate the chili on a list of qualities such as flavor, heat, thickness, etc. Points are also awarded for presentation, and decorations.

Guests also get to vote with their donations. Each of the contestants has a jar where tasters can vote with their dollars. At the end of the contest, the donations are added up. Each dollar is worth a point and these points are added to the contestants’ ballots to determine the final results.

There’s a suggested minimum donation of $5 at the gate. Parking is available on the west side of the building and across the street on the other side of the tracks.

As of this writing contenders for the cook-off include local bars: Fort Dix, HG Roosters, Mad Hatter and Sneakers and several of Penny’s customers. For more information call Johnson at 954-594-7295.