Michelle McKee, left, and Joan Gibbs serve red chili to Dan Bell during last year’s Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge. This year’s event starts at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Photo by Jack Weinstein

Michelle McKee, left, and Joan Gibbs serve red chili to Dan Bell during last year’s Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge. This year’s event starts at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Chili Challenge, hoedown return for Labor Day weekend in Steamboat

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Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge

  • Sunday, September 5, 2010, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Downtown Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / $10

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Labor Day weekend is a time to bid goodbye to the warm days of summer: A last hurrah, in the words of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett.

Sunday, at Eighth and Oak streets, the annual Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge will be the event to help transition locals and visitors into Steamboat’s fall season. Sponsored by F.M. Light & Sons, the sixth annual hoedown and the fifth annual Chili Challenge are free and open to the public starting at 11 a.m.

Barnett said the event, which began six years ago as a 100th birthday party for retailer F.M. Light, has grown bigger since it moved to a new location and a new weekend last year.

“We decided to move it downtown and to Labor Day,” she said. “And it was huge. It made it so much bigger.”

Big enough, she said, that organizers ran out of the 1,000 chili tasting kits they had prepared for the crowd. Previous years only sold 600 kits total.

This year, Barnett said tasting kits would be $7 and include 10 tasting tickets instead of unlimited chili.

“We were having people come late in the day and some competitors were all out of chili,” she said. “If you get 10 tastings, you’re going to get the equivalent of 18 ounces of chili.”

Anticipating a large crowd, organizers prepared 1,200 kits this year, which include a bowl, plastic spoon and a people’s choice award ballot.

This year, 29 cooks will compete for titles in green, red and firehouse chili categories, and there will be four entries each for cornbread and salsa challenges.

Barnett said George Trujillo’s green chili has been a force to be reckoned with almost every year.

“I can’t explain it, but it’s really, really good,” she said. “Mahogany Ridge is also always up there.”

There will be live music by the Yampa Valley Boys and 3Wire, as well as a square-dancing exhibition by a dance troupe.

“They get people from the audience dancing with them, and it’s been pretty fun,” she said.

There’s no dress code, but Barnett encourages participants to don their best Western wear.

“It’s not every day you get a hoedown,” she said. “You’ve been working hard, and it’s time to take a break.”

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