The annual Texas Society of the Virgin Islands Chili Cook-Off always boasts big numbers, Texas style, but the 30th celebration this Sunday looks to be a real record-breaker.
Attendance usually dances around 5,000 or so for the popular Brewers Bay feast, said to second only to Carnival in size.
Lori Abbots, Texas Society vice president, said that just a few weeks ago they were concerned about the scarce number of entries for this year, when, "All of the sudden a downpour of people wanting to cook just kept registering.”
“We’d figured about 50 cooks, which is typical, but so far we have registered 66 beef chili cooks and 14 veggie,” Abbots said. “And Saturday night we always get a bunch of last minute entries. So that’s 80 and still counting!"
What this means is judges are needed, lots of them. "Normally, we can get by with about 80 or so, but this year we need many more," Abbots said.
The day is always packed with stuff to do. Besides gobbling chili samples there’s live music all day; Coors Light and Captain Morgan rum, sodas, juices and water will be available, as well as event T-shirts. Folks are asked not to bring coolers.
Raffle tickets featuring a $10,000 Pro Solar prize can be purchased prior to the event or on the beach (winners do not have to be present to win), with more chances to win hourly cash prizes from Coors Light. The fundraiser benefits local charities.
Convenient parking in the Reichhold Center lot will be available for an optional donation. There will be both a Chili Appreciation Society International-sanctioned chili competition and a locals only competition.
For the cooks, the long hot day starts before 6 a.m. when set up commences. Nothing can be prepared ahead of time. The double blind judging is done under the strict rules of the CASI.
The event will allow the cooks to start making chili at 7 a.m., but the public cannot buy tastes of chili until the judging cups are turned in at noon. Everyone is supposed to leave the beach by 6 p.m.
Trophies and CASI points will be awarded to the top 10 cooks in the CASI competition, which will be open to all cooks. For the locals only competition, the top 10 chili cooks, top three vegetarian chili cooks, and top three large and small showmanship teams will be awarded a trophy and prizes donated by local businesses.
All donated gifts will go to local cooks. One Virgin Islands winner will be sent to represent the Virgin Pod at the national cook-off in Terlingua, Texas.
A $35 entry fee per cook includes entry in both competitions, a 10-by-10-foot spot on the beach to cook, a case of Coors Light, a case of water, 10 pounds of free meat (donated by Merchant’s Market), an event T-shirt, a cooks’ cocktail party and tasting supplies. Cooks may enter up until the night before the event.
It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun, Abbot said. Everyone later always agrees it’s worth it – the exhausted, happy cooks; the eager tasters; the folks dancing in the sand; and those renewing old friendships. The event has withstood Hurricane Irene and lesser weather, in the past, and still come out with a smile.
The chili judging will be at the Reichhold Center Office below the stage. Look for signs. There’s a $2 per car parking fee that goes to charity. Parking is allowed close to Reichhold but not in the driveway.
Volunteer judges can sign up for one of the following times: noon, preliminary beef chili; 1:30 p.m., intermediate beef; and 1:30 p.m. for veggie chili.
Ronette Lee Phelps is the head judge this year. Contact her with your availability at [email protected] or (340) 332-8291 for questions.
Volunteers are needed throughout the day, including bar attendants, T-shirt and ticket sales, and more. Call Abbots at (340) 474-0019.