Participants learn to salsa at the fourth annual Festival of the Americas in downtown Steamboat Springs on Sept. 15, 2007.

File photo

Participants learn to salsa at the fourth annual Festival of the Americas in downtown Steamboat Springs on Sept. 15, 2007.

Chili cook-off deadline extended

Contest is part of joint South Meets Old West Festival

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If you go

What: South Meets Old West Festival (formerly the Downtown Hoedown & Chili Challenge and the Festival of the Americas)

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday; the registration deadline for the chili challenge has been extended through Thursday

Where: Little Toots Park, 12th and Yampa streets

Cost: Admission to the festival is free; chili-tasting kits are $5

Call: Mainstreet Steamboat Springs at 846-1800 for festival information. To register for the chili challenge, call Barb Vargas at 846-3352.

— Closet chili connoisseurs have a few more days to get their recipes together, as the South Meets Old West Festival chili cook-off registration deadline has been extended to Thursday.

"I've got a fair number of chilis entered and several more promised," Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said about Saturday's cook-off. In its third year, the contest is part of the South Meets Old West Festival, a combination of the former Downtown Hoedown & Chili Challenge and the Festival of the Americas.

The hoedown started as a 100th anniversary party for F.M. Light & Sons, and the Integrated Community-organized Festival of the Americas is a celebration for Mexican Independence Day. Barnett said organizers chose to combine the events mostly for logistical reasons.

"Last year, we had the Downtown Hoedown, and then we had an hour in between, where we switched things. That hour in between was kind of chaotic," Barnett said. "We decided, with the chili stuff being kind of Mexican Southwestern and then with the Festival of the Americas being a celebration of the Mexican Independence Day, that we could figure out a way to combine them."

The afternoon festival will start with the chili cook-off, then transition into the independence celebration after the chili judging and awards. Live entertainment will run throughout the day and will include music from Sundog, dancing, mariachi musicians and games for children.

Chili Challenge organizer Barb Vargas said competitors have a chance to submit their best cornbread and salsa recipes, in addition to chili entries in red, green, firehouse and chef's choice categories.

"For a couple of years, we've been thinking about doing this. People just love having cornbread with their chili," Vargas said. "We said, 'Why not, let's do it, if there's so much interest in it.' And what goes better with chili than cornbread? I don't know."

Contestants are asked to bring at least 3 gallons of chili, 1 1/2 gallons of salsa or enough cornbread for 300 tasting portions.

Vargas said the event gives locals a chance to dish up their favorite fall food.

"We have a lot of, like, closet chefs, who say, 'Oh, this chili is excellent, but if my chili were here,' - it just makes for really fun conversations with everyone," she said.

The South Meets Old West Festival also will feature the Boy Scout Meadow Muffin Plop fundraiser, a small petting zoo, and food and beer vendors. Barnett said the festival combines resources to provide a laidback day at the beginning of fall.

"It's just a real old-fashioned kind of event. It's just not as sophisticated as some of the events that happen here in Steamboat," Barnett said. "It's just fun and it's for locals."

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