The first Historic Hillsville Chili Shootout promises to add a little spice to everyone’s live locally with opportunity for competitive cooks to square off and spectator samples. It has been slated for Oct. 17 with cooking beginning at noon.
Shootout co-chairpersons Greg Talley and Ammie Shupe said The Friends of Hillsville group was inspired by fall festivals in other localities and decided to look for something Hillsville could make its own, while attracting people to the town.
“Last year we were going to do a fall festival, but we ran out of time and it just didn’t come together,” said Talley. “I’ve always had this thing for chili. I just can’t explain it. We wanted something that could grow as big as Galax’s barbecue. Most festivals I saw are tied to a particular thing about a town. We didn’t have something like that so our research indicated chili seemed the way to go. We just ran with it.” (The event does draw from the historic courthouse shootout with bullet holes incorporated into the cookoff logo.)
The shootout is sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS), which began in 1967. Its first contest was between Wick Fowler and H. Allen Smith. The three judges were Hallie Stilwell, Floyd Schneider and Dave Witts. Stilwell voted for Smith while Schneider voted for Fowler. Witts reportedly spat out both samples and declared his taste buds ruined. (He called it a draw and declared a moratorium for one year.)
The sanctioned event features professional and amateur divisions. The categories for cooks are traditional red chili, chili verde and salsa. Awards will also be given for showmanship and the best booth decorations. The amateur division winner will be determined by people’s choice voting. A “Cornbread Competition on the Side” is also being planned.
No ingredient may be pre-cooked in any way prior to the official cookoff with the exceptions of canned or bottled tomatoes, tomato sauce, peppers, pepper sauce, beverages, broth and grinding and/or mixing spices. Meat may not be pre-cooked with all ingredients chopped or prepared during the prep period provided.
Talley said sponsorships are available and the group is looking for local businesses, churches, firefighters and civic groups to field their own teams to compete in the shootout. He said a portion of the proceeds will go to the Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home. He praised the support the shootout had received from the Carter House Women for making the event possible. It will be held behind the Historic Carroll County Courthouse and will feature live music.
Chili sampling wristbands are $5 each with registration set at $25 per category entry. Cash prizes will go to the top three winners in all categories. Persons can obtain more information or sign up by contacting Shupe at 276-733-3062 or Beth Deluca at 276-733-3395 or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Historic-Hillsvilles-Chili-Shootout/1599001080375261.
Participants in the professional division must be active ICS members and must be 18 years old. (Memberships will be available the day of the shootout for $60.) The ICS defines red chili as any meat or combination of meats cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients with no beans and pasta.
Chili verde is defined by the ICS as any kind of meat or combination of meats cooked with green chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients with no beans and pasta. Salsa must be homemade by the contestant. It may be brought to the site that day or may be prepared at the cookoff.
The cooking period will be a minimum of three hours and a maximum of four hours. Each contestant must cook a minimum of two quarts of competition chili prepared in one pot which will be submitted for judging. The amateur division “people’s choice” rules are determined by the shootout sponsors and must contain beans. In Hillsville’s case, participants must cook two gallons of chili for the “blind” taste test judging.
Tally said tasting cups will be available for those purchasing wristbands. Because this is the first internationally-sanctioned event, an experienced ICS judge will be provided to mentor local judges on the proper procedures for the event. (The shootout is a district level event with the state championship typically held in Roanoke).
“Because the world championship this year is Oct. 17 in Reno, Nevada we’ll have none advance. Normally if there are 20 in the professional red chili division, they automatically advance,” Talley said. “We’re looking at adjusting the date so they can qualify next year.”
Live music will be provided by the Craig Vaughn Experience and a deejay and artisans will have their products on display behind the Carter House. Local artists may participate in the show for a $25 registration fee. Bounce houses and other children’s activities will be available.
“You can’t fill up on those little sample cups so we’re going to have hamburgers, hot dogs and refreshments on sale as well,” Talley said. “We’re also planning on having a beer tent featuring local brewers and we’re going to work with the high school to sell snow cones.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.