The smells of cooking hamburger, multiple spices and chili powder filling the air drew throngs of Hatters downtown Saturday afternoon.
Celebrating its 24th year in the city, the annual downtown chili cookoff was a success for organizers, filling both Second and Third Street SE with more than a thousand people, lining up to sample all kinds of chili, while also serving as the unofficial kickoff to Stampede Week in Medicine Hat.
“We have a beautiful day, we’ve had hundreds of people come by, and we had excited vendors who were participating,” said Myrna Stark, one of the organizers of the cookoff.
“It’s a great way to get in the spirit of the Stampede.”
There was a chili for every person in attendance. For those craving the chili that warms your stomach and brings back memories of summer campouts, there were booths of traditional chili simmering, waiting to be sampled.
For those looking for something hot and spicy, the kind of spice that makes you sweat and run for the water, there were also options to satisfy cravings. There was even a few tables of salsa for those who wanted something a little different.
“The standards were just incredible,”said Wayne Smith, executive director of the City Centre Development Agency. “It was a difficult decision for the judges to determine. There were some really close calls.”
The event attracted 29 vendors in total, including several new groups cooking for the first time, such as The Holiday Inn Express and Suites.
“We’re trying to get word of the business out in the community,” said Elisha Ammann, helping serve a traditional chili at the Holiday Inn booth with Kyla Boschee. “The hotels sometimes don’t always participate in these things, so it was nice to come out and meet some people.”
“We’re hoping to keep returning,” said Boschee.
Mad Hatter Roastery also participated for the first time in the event. Clad in Alice in Wonderland inspired costumes, the downtown coffee shop took home the judges choice for traditional chili.
“I appreciate it, and thank people who voted for it,” said co-owner Murray Bitz. “I’m glad they enjoyed it, and I had fun making it.”
Bitz cooked his chili beginning at 9 a.m. to have it ready in time for the cookoff, and didn’t want to make the chili too hot for the public.
“I put a little bit of hot sauce in, but not too much,” he said. “I wanted everybody to try it. If it was too hot, children couldn’t eat it.”
Other groups, such as the Medicine Hat Firefighters, are regulars at the event.
“It’s gone well for us, everyone seems to be really happy with our chili,” said Steve Seymour with the firefighters, whose hot and spicy chili was chosen by attendees as the best chili at the festival.
“We doubled our batch and we still ran out. Next year, we’re going to have to bring even more.”
Seymour says the community is the reason they enjoy participating in the chili cookoff.
“The community has given us so much, and we want to give back to the community we love,” he said. “We appreciate what they’ve given us, and we try to give back more.”
Firehall Theatre took home the judges choice for spicy chili, while McMan Bravo Cafe took home best salsa and best decorated booth.
Story compliments of Medicine Hat News - Charles Lefebvre on July 22, 2013