Chili cook-off coming to town

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SANDPOINT — Awards, prize money, bragging rights, entertainment — oh, and a lot of chili.

Chili cooks from across the region, and beyond, will once again be in Sandpoint for the annual Mountain States and Idaho State chili cook-offs this weekend.

The cooks will compete for a spot at the World Chili Cook-Off in Reno, Nev., where they will have a chance to win $25,000. Local coordinator Doug Dishong said people have come from Idaho, Washington, Montana, Canada, and Nevada, Oregon, Wisconsin all the way down to Arizona and southern California to compete in the cook-off competitions.

"There is people that do what they call the 'chili circuit,'" Dishong said. "They are retired and they budget their money and travel around in their RVs ... It's a pretty close-knit group, really."

Dishong went to his first World Chili Cook-Off nearly 40 years ago in 1978.

"My dad was cooking back then," Dishong said. "I got out of the military and went right to the world (competition) with him."

Because it is a two-day cook-off, Dishong said, all the cooks get two chances to compete.

The three winners of the regional cookoff on Saturday, though, will advance to the world finals and will not be eligible to compete in the state competition on Sunday.

Dishong said most of the same cooks will again compete on Sunday, and three more will advance to the world finals in October.

The cook-off is an International Chili Society sanctioned event, so a few ICS certified judges will come from out of town. There will also be some local judges, Dishong said, most of whom have judged cook-offs for him in previous years.

Chili cooks can enter the contest under the categories of red chili, chili verde and salsa. Those who enter the red chili category are also required to cook one gallon of "people's choice" chili. This is a fundraising effort and all proceeds go to the local Panhandle Shrine Club.

To get the public involved, anyone can judge the people's choice category for $2, which includes a ballot, a cup and a spoon. The cook with the best chili will get $50 prize money.

In the red chili category, the first place award is $1,500, second place is awarded $700, third place wins $300, fourth place wins $200 and fifth place wins $100. In the chili verde category, the first place winner is awarded $300, second place wins $200 and third place wins $100. In the salsa contest, the winner gets $100. There is an entry fee in each category ranging from $15-$35 for ICS members.

In the red chili "yutes division," for ages 12-17, first place wins $150, second place wins $100 and third place wins $50.

Also, new this year, the highest finishing first time cook gets $150, and the highest finishing local cook gets $150 as well.

Registration and information is available online at www.chilicookoff.com. For those who want to stop by for a bit of fun and chili, maybe even a few tips from the cooks, anytime between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Trinity at City Beach would be a good time, Dishong said. The cooks start heating up around 10 a.m.

"The weather is going to be nice, we will have music by Neighbor John and on Sunday, Derek and Jeff from K102 Country will be there," Dishong said. "So that will be some fun entertainment."

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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