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What's in a chili?

Whether it's beans or beef, noodles or gravy, chili purists have their favorites

September 22, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • What's in a good chili? Some chili-lovers have their opinions.
Photo illustration,

With a trio of chili cook-off contests on the horizon, and as contestants put the final touches on chili cook-off recipes for cash and bragging rights, let's leave the heavy lifting to the chef.

It's time to get some chili.

Starting Saturday, those hoping to taste the results of other people's toil have three chili contests to choose from.

The Suns Chili Cook-Off and Music Festival returns Saturday, Sept. 25. There are two out-of-state cook-offs set for Oct. 2: Mainstreet Martinsburg Chili Cook-off in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., and Mad Anthony's Chili Cook-off as part of the Market Day street festival in downtown Waynesboro, Pa.

There are a few changes.

Unlike prior years, the Suns Chili Cook-off will be set up in the stadium's concourse and not on the field because of upgrades to the Suns outfield, said Reed Hunley, entertainment director for the Hagerstown Suns.

Hunley said this means that for the first time in the event's history, the number of entrants would have to be capped at 20. Hunley said the event has drawn as many as 36 contestants. Top prize for Best Overall Chili at the Suns contest is $1,000, with second place getting $500 and third place receiving $250.

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The move isn't expected to affect the number of attendees the stadium can accommodate for the festival. Prior Cook-offs have attracted 2,000 to 2,500 people, Hunley said.

"For Thirsty Thursdays, we've had 1,500 people in our beer garden alone," Hunley said.

Music fest bands fit neatly within the spectrum of alt-rock, blues and rock, with Breach the Silence, the Skyla Burrell Blues Band and Love Hate Thing providing the soundtrack to a day of chili tasting.

As for the type of chili, the entries are expected to be varied and open-ended at the area cook-offs.

"Whatever you call chili, we call chili," said Hunley, only hours after Melissa Russ, the point person for Waynesboro's contest, said nearly the same thing in a separate phone interview.

"If you call it chili, we call it chili. That's sort of our motto," said Russ, who's the director of promotions and member services for the nonprofit group coordinating Market Day, Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc. She said a sweet and spicy Hawaiian-style chili was among this year's entries.

Organizers of local cook-offs intentionally did not enter the debate over defining chili by setting rules for the kinds of chili people can and cannot enter. The heated wrangle has been stewing for a while among devotees of Cincinnati-style chili, chili "purists" who only use meat and gravy and those who like their chili busy with beans and all else. Each claims that they are the ones who make "real" chili.

"There's definitely a whole chili subculture," said Rick Sievering, the Great Pepper of the Chili Appreciation Society International's Mason-Dixon Pod.

In laymen's terms, he's the guy who coordinates CASI-sanctioned chili cook-offs throughout Maryland. According to the CASI's official rule book, there are no "fillers" in chili. That means no beans, no macaroni, no rice, no hominy or "other similar ingredients" allowed in competition entries -- it's too distracting for competition judges, Sievering said.

Locally, things aren't so strict. The idea is to attract as many people as possible.

Proceeds from the Suns cook-off will go to the Hagerstown-based Teens Have Choices, the group formerly known as Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition.

Formed in response to reports of high birth rates among Washington County teenagers, Teens Have Choices has been trying to reduce the number of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections in the county, said Executive Director Shalom Black Lane.

"We're always going to have new teenagers. Now we're trying to figure out what they need," Lane said.




Looking for a bowl of chili? Try these area events



Suns Chili Cook-Off and Music Festival



WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 25. Gates open at noon. Chili will be served until 4 p.m. Music continues until 5 p.m. Chili awards will be presented at 5 p.m.

WHERE: Municipal Stadium, 274 E. Memorial Blvd., Hagerstown

COST: $10 admission for adults; $5 children's admission. Tickets include five vouchers for samples.

MORE: The event will raise money for Teens Have Choices, the nonprofit formerly known as the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. Learn more about the nonprofit at TeensHaveChoices.org.

For more information about the event, go to http://www.sunschilicookoff.com.

Mainstreet Martinsburg Chili Cook-off



WHEN: 3 to 7: 30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2

WHERE: Downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., in the middle block of North Queen Street.

COST: $5 tasting fee includes a one-ounce tasting cup; free for children younger than 7.

MORE: There will be live music from Woodshed, the Smooth Cat Burglars and Don Ohlsson and Friends.

For more information, call Randy Lewis at 304-262-4200, or send an e-mail to rlewis@mainstreetmartinsburg.com">rlewis@mainstreetmartinsburg.com.

Mad Anthony's Chili Cook-Off



WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, as part of Market Day, a downtown street festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE: Downtown Waynesboro, Pa. The chili cook-off will be held in the parking lot on the west side of the M&T Bank building, off Main Street.

COST: $1 per sample or $5 for six samples. $5 ticket includes voting ballot for people's choice.

MORE: For more information, call Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc. office at 717-762-0397.

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