DEL MAR, Calif. – Nearly 20 Southern California-based credit unions gathered at the Del Mar Race Track in Del Mar, Calif., Saturday to cook and serve delicious chili recipes, show off festive booth decorations and raise money for their favorite charities. Click through the slideshow to see highlights from the 4th Annual Xpress Data, Inc. Credit Union Chili Challenge. Judges gave the $12.2 billion, Santa Ana-based SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union first place in the chili competition. Pictured are branch managers Camille Sidodi, left, Dave Smith, second from right, and Alex Rodriguez, right. The $237 million Cabrillo Credit Union in San Diego took the title of Best Booth and $1,000 for its charity of choice. Pictured from left to right are credit union employees Hilary Dene, Idalia Rodriguez, Rudy Torres and Kirsten Allen. The chili cookoff’s judges pose for a group photo. Judges included CU Times Managing Editor Natasha Chilingerian (center, in patterned long-sleeve blouse) and CU Broadcast host Mike Lawson, directly to her left. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography) Judges make final notes about the various chili recipes before determining the winners.  The event included a display of classic cars. Sparky, the mascot for the $1 billion, Los Angeles-based Firefighters First Credit Union, gets down to the music. Firefighters First took the award for Best Showmanship and $1,000 for its charity of choice. The $748 million, Oceanside-based Pacific Marine Credit Union took third place in the chili challenge and received $1,500 for its charity of choice. The credit union also snagged $2,000 for its charity as the winner in the People’s Choice chili competition. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography) SchoolsFirst employees accept their first place award in the chili competition and $5,000 for their charity. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography) Firefighters First employees accept their award for Best Showmanship. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography) The $948 million Xceed Financial Credit Union in El Segundo took second place in the chili competition and $3,500 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. (Photo credit: Brett Alan Photography)

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Natasha Chilingerian

Natasha Chilingerian has worked in the credit union space for over a decade. She joined CU Times as managing editor in 2015 and was promoted to executive editor in 2019. Before that, she served as a communications specialist for Xceed Financial Credit Union (now Kinecta Federal Credit Union) in Los Angeles from 2013-2015, and as a CU Times freelancer from 2011-2013. She has been a professional writer and editor for more than 17 years, specializing in news and lifestyle journalism as well as marketing copywriting for companies in the finance and technology space.

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