Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge winners
First place: Maria’s Salsa — Maria Swanson/Yampa Valley Medical Center
Runner-up: Boo’s Famous Salsa — RL and JeanAnn Boo/Coopers
First place: Christina’s cornbread — Routt County Roadhouse
Runner-up: Lynn’s Cornbread — Lynn Richmond/YVMC
First place: Big Smokey — Adam Mackey/Steamboat Meat & Seafood
Runner-up: Meredith’s Red — Meredith Herndon/YVMC
First place: George’s Green Chili — George Trujillo
Runner-up: Cannonbolt Verde — Sam Bolton and Mark Cannon/Cannon Bolt
First place: Flamin’ T-Rex — Vicky, Makana, Irving Seville/Rex’s American Grill & Bar
Runner-up: Cannonbolt Firehouse — Sam Bolton and Mark Cannon/Cannon Bolt
First place: Fawn’s White Chili — Chef Fawn Racoma/Sweetwater Grill
Runner-up: Meredith’s White Chili — Meredith Herndon/YVMC
George’s Green Chili — George Trujillo
Steamboat Springs After spending 20 years perfecting his green chili, George Trujillo, of Yampa, said it’s just right.
“I don’t tweak it,” he said. “I got it, and I got it good.”
That was evident Sunday when Trujillo, for the second consecutive year at the Downtown Hoedown and Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge in Steamboat Springs, was awarded first place in the green chili category and took home the people’s choice award for his George’s Green Chili.
After retiring from a career as a railroad worker, Trujillo said competing in chili cook-offs is what he does. Trujillo said he was pleased that the nine-judge panel awarded his green chili first place, but what he really wanted to win was best chili as voted by the people.
“I am after the people’s choice because there’s a few judges and hundreds of people,” he said. “That’s what it’s about, what the people think.”
By early afternoon, Eighth Street between Lincoln Avenue and Oak Street was packed with locals and visitors sampling some of the 36 chili, salsa and cornbread entries during the event, which was in its fifth year.
Tracy Barnett, manager of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, which organized the event, said there were more chili, cornbread and salsa entrants than last year. Mainstreet sold out of tasting kits after selling 1,000 and scrambled to make more.
Barnett said the group, which supports downtown, sold about 1,200 tasting kits. The Chili Challenge started at 11 a.m. instead of noon to capitalize on its popularity.
“We’re raising money for Mainstreet programs,” she said. “This is a major fundraiser for Mainstreet and community activities.”
Also new this year, the price of tasting kits increased to $7 from $5, and the kit contained 10 tasting tickets, instead of unlimited tastings allowed in years past.
The higher price and limited tastings didn’t seem to deter those who attended the event.
Brian Farrell said Sunday’s Chili Challenge was his third. He had returned to taste his favorites from previous years, and they didn’t disappoint. But his wife, Carmen, was experiencing the event for the first time.
“It’s good. I’ve never tried a lot of kinds of chilis,” she said. “All of them are different and good.”
Cheryl and Martin Zedler, who split time between Steamboat and Dallas, said it was their first time attending the Downtown Hoedown and Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge. Cheryl Zedler said the different types of chili were great.
And Martin Zedler added, “It’s a fun time. What’s not to like?”
In addition to the entrants, another 15 local businesses and groups set up tents to sell products or provide information about their organizations.
Barnett said the top two chili, salsa and cornbread entrants were presented plaques. She said the first-place winner was awarded $100, and runners-up were given $50. The people’s choice award winner, Trujillo, also was presented $150.
Greg Smith, of Fireside Catering, entered his Fireside Firehouse Chili, which wasn’t awarded in the top two of the firehouse category. He said the contest wasn’t necessarily about winning or losing.
“When you get down to it, doing competitions like this is just fun,” he said.
Wes Mottlau, who grew up in Steamboat, was visiting his family with girlfriend A.J. Moshier, from Fort Bragg, N.C. Mottlau said they heard about the event and decided to check it out.
“I thought it was amazing, actually,” Mottlau said. “We’ll be back next year. We’ll definitely be back next year. It was good.”
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org