INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – More than 30 booths lined the sidewalks at the park in Pointe West Saturday, each smelling more delicious than the next and offering miniature cups of chili.
“I have been awed,” said organizer David Dangerfield. “This absolutely blows me away.”
Hundreds of gallons of chili – ranging from turkey and shredded beef to pork to lobster and many combinations in between – stood by waiting to be snatched up by hungry patrons.
Dangerfield estimated that about 7,000 people attended the 6th annual Indian River County Firefighters Chili Cook-off.
By about 6 p.m. – just two hours in – about three-quarters of the booths had run out of chili.Indian River County Utility Department ran out of its 17 gallons in the first hour. Another booth ran through its 10 gallons in 90 minutes.
By 7:15 p.m., only a couple booths still had chili. Microbrewed Fertilizer and Cultivating Eden Hydroponics brought 30 gallons of its chili to the contest, which was why it was still serving up when nearly everyone else had run out.
Dangerfield said that each year the chili cook-off gets bigger and the chili lasts a bit longer. He recalled the first year the event was held – at Humiston Park, Vero Beach – when the chili ran out in the first 30 minutes.
The Sebastian City Council quickly ran out of its “Council Consensus Chili.” Mayor Richard Gillmor had asked the members of council to supply a gallon of chili to create the “consensus” chili.
“It’s the o-possum that makes it,” said one taste-tester at the start of Saturday’s event.
“No, it’s the armadillo,” Mayor Gillmor replied, drawing chuckles from others standing in line for a sample.
Mike and Lucy Church, of Vero Beach, came out to the cook-off to try out the different types of chili. They couldn’t agree on which one they liked best.
Lucy Church voted for Dodgertown Elementary’s chili, while Mike Church chose MacWilliam, McCain & Hill PA.
“It had a different flavor to it,” Lucy said of Dodgertown’s chili, adding that the flavor seemed heightened and was “a flavor I couldn’t put my finger on.”
Mike said that the attorneys’ chili was more like a traditional chili and had more spiciness to it.
“I like spice,” he said.
The chili contestants competed for the coveted People’s Choice Award – decided by the number of tickets the crowd gave them – and for first, second and third place rankings in one of seven categories they had entered.
Along with numerous chili offerings, there was live musical entertainment, and food and drink vendors.
Kids enjoyed face painting, bounce houses, pony rides and a craft activity booth from Home Depot.
“This is as good an event as I could have hoped for,” Dangerfield said.