By Paul T. Choate
Jan. 15, 2013. The Chilly Chili Challenge returns to Blowing Rock on Saturday, Jan. 26, as part of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s biggest winter event of the year – the 15th annual Winterfest.
Listed as one of Our State Magazine’s primary winter events in Western North Carolina, the annual Winterfest is four days of family-friendly fun that incorporates everything from great chili to leaping into an icy lake in silly costumes for a good cause.
“The chili challenge is one of our highest attended events. We’ll expect over 1,000 people to come for it,” said Billie Rogers, events coordinator with the Blowing Rock Chamber. “There will be at least 50 different types of chili that you can taste and there is a lot of creativity involved.”
The annual chili challenge showcases some of the best chili from local restaurants, local chefs-in-their-own-minds and even “professional” chili cooks with Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) who travel the nation and sometimes the globe competing for chili points to be invited to the International Chili Cookoff in Terlingua, Texas.
The local restaurant with the best chili is awarded the Traveling Chili Trophy, a handmade sculpture by artist Alex Hallmark, to prominently display in their restaurant until the 2014 Chilly Chili Challenge.
CASI cooks acquire points for the all-important competition in Terlingua and some also receive trophies for their concoctions.
The big winners though are the amateur or “freestyle” entrants who cook up their home chili recipes for a chance to win some serious cash. First place in the challenge nets $350, with second place receiving $200 and third place getting $100.
“The thing about that is you have to make so much chili. Making this chili is not cheap. It’s probably going to cost people $20 or $30 to make it all,” Rogers said. “We’ve got to make it worth their while. If you win, you still come out way ahead.”
There is still time register for the challenge and the entry form is available online at http://www.blowingrockwinterfest.com/documents/ChiliCookoffentryform2013.pdf. Registration costs $20 up until the event and $25 the day of the event. Those who are registering at the last minute should email Rogers at [email protected] to let her know.
The event takes place at the Blowing Rock School gymnasium located on Morris Street. Tasting begins at 11 a.m. and goes until 2:30 p.m. or until the chili runs out.
Tickets are available through the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce by calling 828-295-7851 or online. Tickets are $7 ($5 for those 12 and under).
For more information about this event and all other events associated with Blowing Rock’s 15th annual Winterfest, visit blowingrockwinterfest.com.
Photos by Todd Bush