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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Heat's on for state chili championship

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Ch-ili, ch-icken and ch-ocolate changes, that is.

That's what you can look forward to at this year's Tennessee State Championship Chili Cookoff on the square in Shelbyville July 23. It's the fourth year the city has hosted the event -- which provides Tennessee's only entrants into the International Chili Society cookoff held in October.

That much hasn't changed, but besides the chili, there will be local Tasters' Choice competitions for chicken and chocolate, too.

"You'll buy taster's cards at the merchants' booth, then go around and sample everything and score it," said organizer Cindy Stephenson. "The merchants will be supplying the chicken and chocolate."

Other than using chicken (provided by Tyson Foods) and chocolate (provided by Nestle's Willy Wonka division if needed), there are no categories. The merchants will simply bring the best chicken or chocolate dish they can and let the tasters judge the best.

Time in a bottle

Last year, the event was surrounded by Shelbyville's Bicentennial celebration, which included cake and candles, special publications, speeches and more. There will be a little bit of overflow into this year's event.

"We started collecting items for a time capsule," said Stephenson.

Feldhaus donated not one, but two containers to use as time capsules and some things have already been included, such as the candles from the bicentennial cake and various birthday cards made for the city's 200th celebration. One family donated a 100-year-old Valentine card.

It's not too late to add more, but by June 25, it will be. Donations can be dropped off at The Sweet Shoppe on the square. Any kind of item related to Shelbyville history and culture would be appreciated.

"We need smaller items, flat items," said Stephenson. "It would be cool if we could get something like a horseshoe from the last World Grand Champion Walking Horse, or a ribbon from the Celebration. We'll have a ribbon from the cook-off, too."

Current plans are to bury the time capsules next to the bicentennial plaque on the courthouse lawn during the chili cookoff.

"I know a lot of our (cookoff) contestants from out of state who were here last year and are going to be here this year would love to be here for it," she said. "They've really become a part of our community."

Hot, hot, hot

Having a chili cookoff in the middle of July seems like an odd idea to many folks -- hot food in hot weather -- but so far, it's been a good draw for Shelbyville. In order to compete at the International Chili Society cookoff, contestants have to have won a state competition, and Tennessee's is one of the last before the cut-off date for this year's entries.

Chili masters from all over come to compete -- and many plan on coming back again and again.

"A lot of them are retirement age and they'll look around and say, 'This looks like a great place to retire," said Stephenson. She said there were 12 out-of-state contestants last year, and at least one from Canada. Although she's only recently begun taking applications, there are already seven out-of-state cookers signed up.

For the International qualifier competition, there are three categories: Red chili; green chili; and salsa.

To compete on that level for a chance to win any where from $50 to $500, the cooks have to have paid the $59 membership fee to join the ICS (International Chili Society) and pay an entry fee ranging from $15 to $30, depending on which category.

Local chili cooks just wanting to compete in the Tasters' Choice competition, however, only have to pay a $10 entry fee.

All of the money raised by the chili cookoff will benefit the Uptown Shelbyville project of establishing a park on the east side of the square.

With a little help

The chili cookoff will have plenty to offer besides chili, chicken and chocolate. Vendors will be on site this year and local civic, church and youth organizations are encouraged to set up booths, especially those offering fun activities for children.

"We've already got a dunking tank.," said Stephenson. "We're looking for lots of people to come and enjoy this.

She said a day on the square is a perfect prelude to visiting the last night at the Bedford County Fair.

"Chili on the square in the day and Four on the Floor on stage at the fair at night," she said.

Anyone interested in renting booth space, providing items for the time capsule, or supplying entertainment for the day can contact Stephenson at 205-4467.