A participant in the Great Miller Lite Chili Cook-Off offers samples to the crowd. Some teams in the Chili Cook-Off opt to dress up in different themes. (Special Photo)
What’s been a tradition at Stone Mountain Park since 1979 will now become a part of Conyers’ annual special events attractions when the Great Miller Lite Chili and BBQ Cook-Off takes place at the Georgia International Horse Park this year.
The bhili and BBQ cook-off is scheduled for Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and features more than 200 chili teams and 30 barbecue teams, as well as corn bread and Brunswick stew competitors, preparing their best dishes for judges.
Cash prizes for the winners include $5,000 to the top chili-making team and $1,500 to the team who makes the best Brunswick stew.
The event is open to the public and is $10 for adults and free for children 12 and younger. Admission cost allows visitors to have free samples of the chili and barbecue, but samples go fast so organizers suggest arriving earlier in the day. Food and libations will also be for sale at the event.
The cook-off moved from Stone Mountain to the Horse Park for several reasons including easy accessibility into the venue and revenue from parking, said Doug Phipps, marketing manager with United Distributors, an alcoholic beverage distribution company based in Smyrna that sponsors and organizes the event.
“Really, in a nutshell, the reason was we thought we could raise more money for our charity. Once the event is over, we pay our bills and whatever is leftover in our checkbook, we write a check to Camp Twin Lakes,” Phipps said.
The chili cook-off generates between $40,000 and $100,000 for Camp Twin Lakes which serves children with special needs or health problems. With locations in Rutledge, Winder and Warm Springs, the camp provides week-long summer experiences and year-round weekend retreats where children can come and join in activities with others who have similar physical or mental challenges.
Each year, Camp Twin Lakes serves more than 9,100 campers, and subsidizes 80 percent of the direct camp cost, about $800, for every camper served.
Phipps said that United Distributors aims to raise upwards of $100,000 for Camp Twin Lakes by attracting as many as 15,000 people to the chili cook-off this year.
In addition to sampling the chili and barbecue, those attending the event can also bring a blanket, sit down, relax and enjoy live music.
A rock-n-roll cover band, The Geeks, play at 10:30 a.m.; Revival: An Allman Brothers Band Experience, performs at 12:30 p.m.; the Wholigans, a Who tribute band, hits the stage at 2:30 p.m.; and 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience, rounds out the day at 4:30 p.m.
“These are not just garage bands. These are touring tribute bands,” Phipps said. “Every song is something you recognize. It’s really music all day long.”
Another attraction to the event, said Phipps, is that the Chili Cook-Off team members dress up and decorate their trailers in different themes. An award for showmanship is given to the team with the most creativity.
“We have everything from pirates to trailer trash,” said Phipps. “It’s just a great place to people watch.”
In between bands, crowds are entertained by activities such as a jalapeno eating contest and a mullet flop, a relay race in which team members have to pass an oiled-up, gutted fish from one person to the next.
“You have to carry it in your hands or your mouth and you can’t drop it,” Phipps said of the 2- to 3-foot slippery mullet. “It’s funny to watch.”
Phipps said the Chili Cook-Off does have judges but it is a non-sanctioned event, designed for enjoyment and to raise money for a good cause. Some people have been returning to the Chili Cook-Off for two decades, meeting up with old college friends and family, Phipps said.
“People come from all walks of life,” he said. “It’s just a fun overall day for the whole family and for a great charity.”
To learn more, visit www.theatlantachilicookoff.com.