Red Hot Hospitality

CHILLIN' WITH CHILI: Inaugural Chisholm Chili Cookoff hosted by Meridian Parks & Recreation offers plenty for visitors with food, movie, music and vendors during two-day event

MERIDIAN – Organizing a big community event for the first time is a daunting task, especially when the event is envisioned to be another marquee event for Meridian. But when all was said and done, the Meridian Parks and Recreation Committee could pat itself on the back for a job “well done!”

Held in Meridian Park, Lions Park and Bosque Bottoms, the inaugural Chisholm Chili Cookoff might not have drawn the amount of cookers or crowds an established event would have, but it offered a diversity of unique vendors, great music, a classic Western movie, fun activities for the visitors to enjoy – all for free.

On top of that, the event fell in “Great Outdoors Month” of June – a month-long celebration of the outdoors. Aimed at encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the world around them Great Outdoors Week started in 1998 and expanded to Great Outdoors Month in 2004.

“Many volunteers worked very hard and put in some long hours to make this event possible,” Meridian Parks & Recreation board president Don Hatley said. “And we could not have gotten everything done without the support of the good folks at Meridian City Hall and Meridian Public Works. We were very excited about finally being able to put this event on. And we feel very good about what we've started here.”

The Chisholm Chili Cookoff surrounding events had so many outdoor events to enjoy, like disc golf, horseshoes, washers and corn hole tournaments in the shade of beautiful Lions Park. The activities invited everyone to embrace the outdoor spirit of America and head outside into the natural world. The Farmer’s Market saw a bigger number of vendors and visitors on the Saturday of the event.

A small, but Terlingua-winning group of chili heads – like Meridian’s own Jason Goains and judge monitor Larry Walton – showed up to cook in their own chilled, chili style. Terlingua, by the way, is where all the Chili Appreciation Society International season’s winners convene for the ultimate chili cookoff. In Meridian, there were enough cookers to qualify as a sanctioned CASI event, and allowed the points gathered by the cooks to count for their yearly total.

Chili winner on Friday evening was Marianne Cook and on Saturday was Larry Walton. They are veteran CASI cooks, and know what CASI likes to see in regards to their chili – only meat and gravy. The cooks looked to tantalize the taste buds with layers and depth of flavor – tomato up front, then different spice layers and salt, to end in a sweet after burner.

Friday's chili winners were: 1st Marian Cook, Meridian; 2nd Guy Paylson, Meridian; 3rd Grace Walton, Robinson; 4th Larry Walton, Robinson; 5th Jason Goains, Meridian; 6th Billy Earl Cook, Meridian; 7th Donna Conrad, Crawford; 8th Dianne Stimson, Crawford; 9th Debra Bramble, Arlington; and 10th Larry Bramble, Arlington.

Saturday's chili winners were: 1st Larry Walton; 2nd Grace Walton; 3rd Billy Earl Cook; 4th Guy Paylson; 5th Mick Joplin, Morgan; 6th Jason Goains; 7th Marian Cook; 8th Tony Woodruff, Meridian; 9th Mark Booth, Horseshoe Bay; and 10th Larry Bramble.

Beans winners were: 1st Donna Conrad; 2nd Larry Walton; and 3rd Jason Goains. In the mixed drinks contests, winners in Margaritas were: 1st John Edwards, Meridian; 2nd Marie Garland, Meridian; while winners in Bloody Marys were:  1st Donna Conrad and 2nd Marie Garland.

Most cooks talked to steered away from making their bowl of red too “picante” for the judges, because it is all about the taste after all – and after a mouth roof and lip-burning bowl, you can’t taste anything else. The cooks choose to add more in the way of spice blends to distinguish their flavorful concoction from the rest.

The weather was like the slow afterburner after a good bowl of red. It started of comfortably enough, but then heated up. Luckily for all involved there was a constant breeze. With that said, it was the breeze that gave the chili cookers a challenge when they wanted to bring the chili down to a low simmer – it was hard keeping the small flame going.

After the awards, the two-day event culminated in a free dance at the Meridian Civic Center with the incredibly talented Muther Mirm and the Mustang Family Band putting on a great show, inspiring people to sing along and hit the dance floor.

Special "tight" performance kudos to Jake Wallace on Rocky Horror's "Time Warp," Morgan Wallace Tremillo on "Tennessee Whiskey" and "Muther Mirm" Miriam Wallace on "I Will Survive," just to name a few. Despite practically no chance to rehearse together, they made it look and sound "super easy," like it was "barely an inconvenience."

"I want to personally thank Muther Mirm & the Mustang Family Band for the spirited performance that made everyone want to get up and dance," Meridian Parks & Rec activities and events director Brett Voss said. "The Wallaces delivered with their incredibly talented family and friends. If you weren't there to hear the music and kick up your boots, you missed out on a great evening of entertainment and fun."

The Meridian Parks and Recs board especially wants to thank all the sponsors and the volunteers for their invaluable contributions to the event. Without their support, the event would not have been as successful as it turned out. And as far as the organization, with all the preparation and effort put in by the Parks and Recs board, everything went super smoothly and the parks looked as good as they ever have. For those who didn’t make it – “Y’all missed out.”

But with all sorts of plans and improvements already on the drawing board, count on next year’s event to be bigger and better with more cookers and visitors. The Meridian Parks and Recreation Committee hope to welcome you then, again, as a cook, judge, vendor, sponsor or visitor.

“To be honest, we are just getting started with the first annual version of the Chisholm Chili Cookoff,” Voss said. “This cookoff has been two years in the making, but we hope to grow it into an even larger and broader event next year.

"Later this summer, the construction of the Chisholm Trail Plaza located on the old county jail site will be completed, and it will become the crown jewel of the Meridian Parks System. In addition to building public restrooms, the plaza will include a stage, picnic tables, park benches and two pickleball courts.

"With many of our chili cookoff activities moving to the plaza next year, we also hope to add things like a longhorn cattle drive through town and more. In the meantime, we will continue offering our monthly free outdoor movie nights, while developing disc golf and pickleball leagues. It's time for everyone to come out and enjoy the parks.”


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