Chili tasters wait in long lines Sunday afternoon to sample the green and red chilies made by Sweetwater Grill. Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said about 1,100 taster kits were sold at this year's event, a 10 percent increase compared with last year.
Chili challenge draws huge Labor Day crowd in Steamboat
Steamboat Springs The bad news quickly spread through the crowd on Eighth Street.
At 1 p.m. Sunday, vendors were running out of chili — and fast.
In just two hours, the Labor Day crowd eagerly consumed 15 gallons of Joe Maesar's red chili.
“I thought I was going to have some leftovers to serve as a special this week,” the Creekside Cafe & Grill executive chef said near the end of the 2012 Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge in downtown Steamboat Springs.
After hearing about the depleting chili supply, Routt County CattleWomen team leader Mary Kay Monger and her servers made the important decision to scale back the portions of their Rainmaker Red chili.
The move helped them and their 15 gallons of chili survive until after 2 p.m.
“We heard they were all running out, so we had to do something,” CattleWoman Karina Spitzley said as crowds lined up to taste the last portions of the chili.
In its seventh year downtown, the annual chili challenge proved to be a popular fundraiser for Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.
Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett said about 1,100 taster kits were sold at the entrances to the event that featured 20 entries of chilies, cornbreads and salsas.
It also attracted some loyal fans.
Part-time Steamboat residents Reed and Patti Grimes have made the event, which fell on their 34th wedding anniversary this year, an annual tradition.
“It's always fun,” Patti Grimes said while she waited in a line of more than 20 people to taste Sweetwater Grill's red and green chilies. “You know you're going to have to wait in a line, but that's part of the charm.”
And as tasters waited patiently in long lines to grab a modest cup of chili, the chefs recalled all the time and energy they spent filling vats with their coveted recipes.
At Horizons, chili making was a team event that started Thursday after chef Linda Foss cooked 11 pounds of pinto beans.
Her Texas-style recipe was circulated to five Horizons counselors, one volunteer and four of the nonprofit's clients who had a hand in the cooking.
“It's just good to be together,” Horizons Director Susan Mizen said.
Judges deemed Horizons' inaugural entry into the chili challenge as the best red chili of the day.
Mizen said she hopes Horizons' presence at the event brings more awareness to the group that provides support for people with developmental disabilities.
Barnett said attendance at Sunday's chili challenge was up about 10 percent compared with last year.
“The rivalries are always fun,” she said as organizers prepared to count up the vote tallies for all of the chilies.