BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Seven states and more than 30 teams were represented at the 2016 World Championship Squirrel Cook-off in northwest Arkansas.

Amateur and professional chefs set up dozens of tents Saturday on the Bentonville square, as thousands lined up early to dine on various recipes for cooking the fluffy-tailed rodent.

“It’s always a good time, even when you don’t win,” said Natalie Morrison of Hiwasse Girls Cooking Squirrel. Morrison’s main dish was squirrel stroganoff. And she added a dessert this year: a fried pie filled with four-berry jam, cream cheese, sausage and minced squirrel that was dipped in a sugar glaze.

More than once, Morrison had to turn people away — she had nothing left to serve.

Proceeds from this year’s cook-off went to Sheepdog Impact Assistance and the Wings for Our Troops Foundation, two organizations based in Rogers that serve veterans, military members, police and firefighters, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/2c3qj7n ).

“(The money) is going to vets one way or another,” said Joe Wilson, one of the cook-off’s organizers. “We support America by supporting those who support us.”

The total raised wasn’t immediately available, but Sheepdog officials said they will use the money to provide holiday meals to police and firefighters on duty during Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to member Rob Beidleman.

The Wings Foundation, founded by Tami and Terry Boyett, will use the money to help military members return home to see their families before deployment. The Boyetts’ son, Cpl. Chad S. Wade, was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. The last time they saw him was when he returned home before heading into a war zone.

“We’re all going for the same cause, helping people in need,” Terry Boyett said.

Wilson, who doesn’t participate in the cook-off, said he’s happy to see the event has enhanced the perception of eating wild game.

“(Bentonville) is the art and culinary capital of the state — and we’re cooking squirrel,” Wilson joked.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com