Back for a tenth year, the popular annual Chili Cook-Off event at La Paz County Park has been set for Saturday, November 4th, 2017.
Approximately 1000 people come to taste up to 25 chilis and salsas, which are judged by a new panel every year.
“We do red and green chili and salsa, so in each category there are two prizes for chili, $500 for red, $500 for green, and for salsa it’s $250 for the winner,” said Mary Hamilton, Director of the Parker Regional Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, which organizes the event.
“It’s a fundraiser for the Chamber and a necessary one. It’s kind of taken the place of the Gong Show in terms of fundraising for us, it’s our second largest fundraiser after the Tube Float.”
The cook-off began in 2007, with Randy Hartless as Chamber Director. He says it may have originally been the idea of Heather Wilson, who was the President of the Chamber’s Board at the time.
“We were looking for a Fall event as well as a fundraiser for the Chamber,” Hartless told Parker Live. “We had the Christmas boat parade in November but it really didn’t generate much money, it was more of a community fun thing. Heather may have been the one that came up with the idea. She was very involved in it and did a lot of the legwork to get it off the ground.”
Since then, it’s been a staple of the run-up to the holidays in the Parker area, which is always celebrated with the arrival of cooler weather and outdoor activities. People plan to be in Parker that weekend because they love the event.
“We’re next to the swap-meet so there’s a lot of activity,” Hamilton said. “Last year we had it going on at the same time as Desert Splash, too. La Paz County Park is a great venue.”
Chili is judged on aroma, taste and consistency, based loosely on the ‘CASI’ (Chili Appreciation Society International) criteria, though the Parker event is not affiliated with any wider organizations.
“We’re not a sanctioned event by any chili association, so we can have local judges from our community,” Hamilton told Parker Live. “But they use similar rules, the judges are sequestered ahead of the event, they don’t get to walk around and see the chili or the cooks beforehand.”
Hamilton said the Health Department really liked the Chamber’s permit for the event and the process has now been changed based on it. Cooks do not need to register for their own card from the Health Department, they simply need to agree to the rules and allow the Chamber to oversee their cooking. Everything must be prepared on-site, temperature logs are used, and there is a mandatory cooks’ meeting ahead of the event.
To enter a chili, it’s $50, and to enter a salsa, it’s $25. Contestants should register at parkeraz.org by October 30th.
Wristbands to enter the event and taste chili and salsa are $5 at the gate, and the event includes a Bloody Mary Mix-Off, too, with tasting for that at $5. No alcohol is served with the Bloody Mary due to state law, but alcohol can be purchased from the on-site Soroptimist River Diva Bar separately.
New this year is a ‘Show It’ show, where people can bring whatever they’re proud of to put on show along with others.
“Whatever your pride and joy is, get it out of the garage and come and show it,” Hamilton said. “I don’t care if it’s a skateboard, a drone, you can’t fly it but show it. Boats, cars, whatever. There’s a guy who owns 10 vintage tractors who wants to bring them.”
Information about entering the ‘Show It’ event will be updated on the Chamber’s website when available. Live music will be heard: the Highway 95 band will be back.
And the event wouldn’t be possible without the event sponsors, which will be listed on a t-shirt available for purchase on the day of the event.
The Chili Cook-Off at La Paz County Park is set for 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 4th, 2017.