Police officers, firefighters to be celebrated over hundreds of pounds of chili
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 08:10
In October, Tufts celebrates more than just the changing of the leaves. The annual Station House Chili Festival hosted today at Carmichael Dining Center honors local police officers and firefighters who serve the Tufts community .
According to Communications Specialist of Tufts Dining Services Lyza Bayard, the Chili Fest was originally inspired by the events of Sept. 11, 2001 as a way to commemorate both local and national heroes. In recent years, it has evolved to reflect and appreciate the local community.
“[Sept. 11] was really a catalyst for acknowledging those around us who keep us safe,” she said. “Our goal was really to reach all the local police and firefighters, spread the word and bring all the community officials from the various response departments together for a meal.”
Chili Fest invites the officers of the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD), as well as the Medford and Somerville emergency response teams, to interact with each other and students in a social setting.
“The best thing about the occasion is really the connection that arises.” Baynard said. “You see the officers, men [and] women from the local emergency response departments and students and faculty sharing a table and just chatting in a positive setting. It’s amazing.”
Interaction between officers and students is normally hard to come by, according to Tufts’ Fire Marshal John Walsh.
“The event is truly a wonderful thing,” Walsh, who arrived to the Hill in August, said. “In an emergency situation, people are so rushed there is really not a moment to interact with the students, and this allows us to do so.”
One major goal of the event is to promote awareness about public and fire safety issues. The departments have representatives and booths set up in the dining hall designed to provoke questions and encourage awareness of safety in the dorms.
“The festival is, in many ways, an educational opportunity,” said Kelley. “[The displays] provide an awakening for many students, as in ‘[Wow], that can happen?’”
Similarly, Walsh says that his favorite part of the occasion is the presentations, because of their educational value.
“Unfortunately, many students think that a fire will never strike their life,” Walsh said. “As public safety officials, we love educating others. Little things can have a big impact, and this is another chance to break down any barriers.”
The event organizers’ hope is that by attending the event, students will gain a greater understanding of the loyalty and dedication our local heroes have to serve, save and protect the Tufts community.
“If you think about the role of responders in the big picture, everyone here has a mission. You yourself have a mission; it took a lot of hard work on your part and on the part of others for you to be here. We are safeguarding that mission, and it is personalized for each of you,” Walsh said. “If we prevent something that could have interfered with your mission, then we are doing our job well.”
Last year, approximately 1,200 students, faculty and responders showed up to enjoy the festivities, according to Kelley. He hopes to see a large crowd this year as well and encourages students to be actively involved with the event.
“Last year, we had about 50 to 75 comments about the food that was offered,” Kelley said. “In fact, one of the items on the menu, the Cincinnati Chili, we serve with spaghetti now because a student bought to our attention the ‘authentic’ way to serve it.”
Unit Manager of Carmichael Dining Center Kelley also mentioned the huge effort it takes to put on the event. The cooks at Carmichael contribute, with some even contributing their own chili recipes. Besides the Cincinnati Chili, the community can expect 99 pounds each of Chunky Chicken Chili and the spicy 5 Alarm Chili, and over 500 pounds of Carmichael Firehouse Chili.
“We’ve probably got close to 800 pounds of chili, and you can figure we have enough for at least 1,200 students tomorrow for lunch,” Kelley said. “It takes a small army ... [but] it’s second nature. In addition to trying to put the meal out for dinner tonight, [we’re] also prepping for tomorrow.”
Senior Nick Metcalfe has enjoyed the Chili Fest during his time at Tufts.
“On one hand, it is exciting to be treated with some dishes in the dining hall that you don’t get everyday, but on the other there is also a great response from the public safety officials,” he said. “You can tell they are very thankful and appreciate how much we care about what they do.”
Walsh says that Chili Fest stands out because of its positive atmosphere, which contrasts with many emergency situations that public safety responders face.
“We get to go to all the bad events,” he said.
“This is a good event, this is a good mission.”