Recipe for a night of fun – What's Cookin' returns March 24

POLO – The Rock River Center has certainly put together a great recipe for success with the What’s Cookin’ fundraiser, held annually at Barnacopia.

That was clear last year when 500 people flooded the doors in the first hour alone to try the tasty items on offer, from appetizers to main dishes to desserts.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t add to the ingredients.

This year the event will feature “celebrity” judges. The judges – Chip Messiner, Marilynn Csernus and Dan Ritter – will judge the four main categories, while the those in attendance will judge the Best in Show.

The 5th annual What’s Cookin’ will be held on March 24 from 5-8 p.m. Barnacopia is located at 2570 N Westbranch Rd, Polo, just north of Route 64 west of Mount Morris.

The main categories are appetizers, main dish, side dish and desserts. They will also judge the Junior Chef division.

Marcia Heuer, events coordinator for Rock River Center, said they hoped to add a higher level of professional input with the judging done by celebrity and food certified and chef accredited judges. She added that all the winners of the five categories will receive unique trophies.

Among the judges, Ritter spent more than 25 years as a professional chef. He is now administrator at Oregon Living & rehabilitation Center.

Ritter said he will be looking for a variety of things in the dishes, including presentation, flavor and texture.

“You can tell whether the cooking technique was done correctly or not based on the finished product,” he said.

Ann Haas, executive director of Rock River Center, said this “awesome” fundraiser helps the center maintain services throughout Ogle County.

“Community events are a way for Rock River Center to gain visibility for the assistance we provide to Ogle County residents,” she said. “We always want the public to be aware that they are all welcome at the center and you do not have to be 60 to participate.”

Heuer said there will space for more teams who wish to participate on the main floor of Barnacopia this year.

There still are openings for teams and sponsors. If interested, go to, click on the What’s Cookin tab and see pictures of the event, including the overhead banners that list all the sponsors and teams. Flanking the page are lists of this year’s confirmed sponsors and teams in their food categories. Registration forms are a click away on the What’s Cookin tab or contact Ann Haas, [email protected], Marcia Heuer, [email protected] or call 815-732-3252.

Tickets to the event are $20, and are available at Rock River Center, 810 S 10th St, Oregon and will be available at the door.

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