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Monday, May 30, 2016

Taste the thrill of the chil(i)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

(T-G File Photo)
Contestants from seven states have entered this weekend's back-to-back chili cookoffs on the Shelbyville square, and plans are shaping up for the Uptown City Fair which will take place on Saturday, according to festival organizer Calvin Cannon.

As of midday Monday, 10 contestants had signed up for Friday night's regional International Chili Society cookoff, while a dozen had signed up for Saturday's state championship ICS event.

But Cannon was expecting more contestants to sign up at the last minute, and that number might be boosted even further by the cancellation of a cookoff in Georgia last weekend that might prompt some contestants to make new plans this week.

A Texas-style battle is shaping up in the salsa category, with high-profile contestants from Dallas and Houston both entered, said Cannon.

Hot rides, too

The Uptown City Fair on Saturday will include a car and motorcycle show, with public voting starting at 11 a.m. A new "rat rod" category has been introduced. Cannon said a number of vendors have signed up for the event, most of them local.

A social media scavenger hunt will be held on Friday night and Saturday morning. (You need not be there both days.) Clues will be given, and when a participant figures out the location to which a clue refers, he or she checks in at that location on social media. The winner will be drawn at noon Saturday from all of those with the correct list of check-ins.

There will be a crowd-judged "dog & mutt on leash" contest at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Children's activities will include a trampoline-and-bungee-cord attraction, said Cannon.

Cooks' challenge

At 4 p.m. Saturday, a "Chili With What" contest will encourage local cooks to prepare a chili-based dish or unique way of serving chili in combination with other ingredients. The prize will be a gift certificate.

Friday night's cookoff will begin with a cooks' meeting at 4 p.m. and the start of cooking at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, the state championship will start with a cooks' meeting at 9 a.m. and the start of cooking at 10 a.m.

People's choice tasting will begin at 11 a.m.; the public can pay $5 for a tasting kit which will allow them to try chili from contestants participating in the people's choice category. The people's choice category is not ICS sanctioned, and -- unlike the cookoff itself -- contestants don't have to join ICS to participate.

A special "Boss of Chili in Shelbyville" award will be given to the highest-placing local winner in the people's choice contest,

Rules of taste

The ICS rules, available at chilicookoff.com, are quite specific. For one thing, no beans are allowed. No ingredient can be pre-cooked, except for canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, peppers, pepper sauce, beverages, broth or mixing of ground spices. All of the cooking must take place during the competition, at the contestant's booth. The contestant prepares two quarts of chili, and a sample is ladled into an unmarked foam cup for judging.

According to the ICS web site, "Taste, above all else is the most important factor. The taste should consist of the combination of the meat, peppers, spices, etc, with no particular ingredient being dominant, but rather a blend of the flavors .... Chili must have a good ratio between sauce and meat. It should not be dry, watery, grainy, lumpy, or greasy."

Except for the non-sanctioned people's choice category, contestants must either be members of ICS or join as they register for the cook-off.

Home of chili

This will be the sixth year for an ICS cook-off to be held in Shelbyville and the fifth year for the state cookoff to be held here. It will be the first time that back-to-back events have been held on Friday and Saturday, which Cannon said helps make it worth the while for traveling contestants and keeps them in town longer.

Top prize for the district cookoff is $100, while first place prizes for the state championship are $400 for red chili, $200 for chili verde, $100 for salsa, $50 for people's choice and $100 for best booth. There are cash prizes for second and third place as well.

For more information, call Cannon at 639-3643 or e-mail calvin@cacinteriordesign.com. For more information about the International Chil Society, go to chilicookoff.com.