Community Action of Southern Kentucky to host Annual Chili Cook-off

Drake Kizer

If bad weather and freezing temperatures have soured your mood, Community Action of Southern Kentucky’s Annual Chili Cook-off on March 2 may brighten your spirits.

This year will mark the ninth consecutive event, and for the first time, the event will feature two separate cook-offs. Due to high demand, one cook-off with 25 teams will take place at 11 a.m. and another featuring 25 more teams will begin at 4 p.m.

Two five-judge panels, each made up of notable figures from the Bowling Green community, will vote on their favorites from each session and award trophies in three categories: spicy, traditional and anything goes. Locals who attend each session will also vote for their favorite cooks in a special fourth category by placing money in tip jars located beside each participant’s pot.

Skip Wirth, a self-employed motivational speaker and trainer, has served as a judge each year since the cook-off’s inception. Wirth formerly served on the Community Action of Southern Kentucky (CASOKY) advisory council, and he said has been invited back annually even after his retirement from the board.

“It really comes down to the taste,” Wilson said about what sets each chili apart for him personally. “We don’t even know what we are tasting at the time or who made it, we just know the classification. [Each judge] gets to mark their own scorecard and we don’t discuss favorites.”

Between the two cook-off sessions, there will be a silent auction featuring items donated by members of the community. CASOKY advisory council member Debbie Harwood said some of the items up for grabs will include tickets to WKU sporting events, Bowling Green Hot Rods games and Holiday World.

“We really try to highlight things in our 10-county area so [winners] can visit places they have never been before,” Harwood said. “The silent auction takes place each year, but this year is the first time that local artists will contribute their work to it as well.”

Tim Wilson, a retired police officer currently working for the Kentucky State Police as a criminal intelligence analyst, is one of the local artists sharing his work in this year’s auction. Wilson took up photography as a retirement hobby, and a photo he took on his cell phone of the College Street Bridge will be his first piece sold publicly, he said.

“The reason I donated that particular picture was because it’s a very known area around Bowling Green,” Wilson said. “It’s always good to give if you can. What it cost me to get a print made is nothing when you’re talking about helping some people out.”

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Foster Grandparent Program, Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Senior Center Program, Foster Grandparent Program Director Sandi Knight said. Artwork senior citizens colored with children with disabilities will be displayed alongside silent auction items to bring attention to the populations that are served by the three programs, Knight said.

“It’s obvious that we serve senior adults, but we also serve children through them,” Knight said. “A lot of people in the community do not realize how they tie together, but [Foster Grandparent Program volunteers] receive a small stipend per hour for working specifically with children who have special and exceptional needs.”

The cook-off will take place at First Baptist Church in Bowling Green. Admission to each session is $5 and participants will get to sample all of the different chilis before selecting a full bowl of their favorite. Those who attend will also receive a sandwich, a dessert and a drink to complete their meals.

The deadline to enter a recipe in this year’s chili cook-off is Feb. 27.

Correction, Feb. 16: The original headline for this story read “…to host Annual Chili Cookoff.” Cook-off should be hyphenated. The Herald regrets the error.

Features reporter Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.