A MEMBER OF the “Tighty Whitey Explosion Chili” team serves up a sample during last year’s Green Lake’s Wisconsin State Chili Cookoff, held at Deacon Mills Park. The event returns Saturday, Sept. 10. Ian Stepleton photo
by Hannah Tetzlaff
As Green Lake residents dunk their spoons and sample many varieties of chili at the Wisconsin State Chili Cookoff, they may relate to Oliver Twist’s plea: “Please, sir, I want some more.”
The Green Lake Rotary Club will host the 37th-annual chili cookoff Saturday, Sept. 10 from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Deacon Mills Park.
The cookoff involves 30 to 40 contestants who begin prepping and cooking the chili at 10:30 a.m. and fill a quart to be judged at 3 p.m. with the top-10 results announced at 4:30 p.m.
Prizes awarded at the event are as follows: first place receives $750, trophy and a chance to compete at the World Chili Cookoff Oct. 21 to 23 in Reno, NV; second collects $175 and trophy; and third gets $125 and trophy.
Other special awards include: a trophy for the Spiciest, $100 and trophy for showmanship and a cash prize and trophy for People’s Choice.
According to Chili Cookoff Chairman Bill Munsey, visitors are welcome to attend and enjoy themselves at no cost for admittance.
Spectators may stroll around and watch how each individual chili is made while enjoying music selected by D.J. Greg Owens from WTCX 96.1 at 11 a.m. and at noon, the band Yellowhammers.
After the chili is collected for judging, the fun begins for the spectators.
“At 3 p.m., we will be selling sample cups for the general public,” Munsey said. “We’re selling four 2-ounce sample cups for $1, and those four sample cups will include a ticket. Now all the spectators can walk through the tent and taste all the different chilies and they can have a People’s Choice Award winner.”
He added the ticket is used to vote for each person’s favorite chili, and spectators need to have a new, clean cup for each chili they taste.
Those who fall in love with a chili and simply want some more may participate in the live auction.
“When we announce the top-10 chilies, we will also auction off that chili for the fund-raiser for the Rotary,” Munsey said. “We’ve gotten up to $500 for a quart of the winning chili and even more in the past, which is a lot of money for a quart of chili.”
The money raised from the auction, sampler cups, and food all go toward the service organization.
“This is a fund-raiser for the Rotary Club, not a money-maker for a private business,” Munsey said. “… The Rotary Club is the largest organization that sponsors international foreign exchange students. Rotary is international; they’re almost in every country around the world. We sponsor the foreign exchange students and here locally, we sponsor the scouts and other youth organizations.”
Munsey noted even though there is no theme for the event, it doesn’t stop cookoff participants from having fun and dressing up.
“A lot of contestants dress up,” he said. “They dress up their tables and they’ll dress up. We’ve got this group called the ‘Jamaican Rum Dums.’ They’ve been coming for years from Fond du Lac and they’ll dress up like Jamaicans with the rasta hair … they make it fun.”
Dick Austin OF COWPOKE’S Chuckwagon Chili Co., Menasha, hoists the first-place trophy after winning last year’s Wisconsin State Chili Cookoff. Jonathan Bailey photo
The groups also decorate the tables with trophies from previous years.
“It’s fun to hand out the trophies; the contestants are genuinely really happy and humble when they get those trophies,” Munsey said. “They’ll bring their trophies from previous years and stack them up at their booths because they’re proud of those trophies and they should be … There’re a lot of teams that have won it multiple times, so it says something about their recipes.”
Even though costumed teams may seem unusual, what sets this chili cookoff apart from other is its size.
“For one, I think it’s the biggest one in the state,” Munsey said. “We are the big daddy of chili cookoffs. We are sanctioned by the International Chili Society, which means our winner goes to the World [Championships for the chance to win] $25,000…Ours it the real deal. I can’t imagine anyone having more fun on that day than we do.”
As Munsey stated, the Green Lake’s Wisconsin State Chili Cookoff is an event where merriment is enjoyed by all and where no is denied when asking for one more bowl.
For more information, call Munsey at 920-294-6504.