Austintown band chili cook-off, concert series supports veterans

By kalea hall


The smell of Brad Gessner’s chili filled the kitchen of his mother’s Austintown home Friday night as he prepped chili for the concession stands.

Gessner is a band parent, and his goal is to get people interested in Sunday’s Veterans Day Chili Cook-off and Concert Series at Austintown Fitch High School by selling the chili at tonight’s Fitch football game.

“There is not really any better investment than doing stuff for your kids,” Gessner said.

Gessner, the vice president of finance for the band parents, has two children in the Austintown band. This is the second year the band parents have rallied together to raise money for the band and for military veterans. Specifically, the funds will go toward purchasing bicycles for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation and a local veterans food pantry.

The Austintown band is historically known as being a patriotic band. When Donald W. Squire Hurrelbrink was the Fitch band director from 1949 to 1971, his patriotism transferred to the Fitch music program and brought military tradition to the band. The band is considered one of the last high-school military units in the area.

The concert series, starting at 5 p.m. Sunday, will bring out a Fitch High School military-style marching band with American flag sashes and the Austintown Middle School concert bands to perform patriotic songs for the veterans.

During a performance of “Duty, Honor and Country,” Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court will deliver Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s address to the West Point Military Academy.

In addition, the Class of 1962 Veterans Memorial Committee will receive the first “Fitch Band Patriotism Award.”

The chili cook-off from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday will include 17 to 18 chili entries. Cornbread and dessert also will be served.

“You can get as much chili as you feel like eating,” Gessner said.

There will be a variety of chili for guests to taste and even vote for to win the People’s Choice Award.

Five judges, who are all veterans from different military branches, will be deciding whose chili wins first-, second- and third-place honors.

Tickets for the dinner and concert are $10 for adults and $5 for children, or, for just the concert, tickets are $5 for both adults and children. All seniors and veterans get in free for both events.

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