5 Flavorful Chili Cook-offs Across America

rv chili trail

Follow the RV chili trail to festivals.

rv chili trail

“Feel the Bern” was a cheer you heard a lot during the presidential campaign. On the RV chili cook-off trail, “Feel the burn” relates to the amount of red hot chili peppers in the contestants’ mouth-watering chili.

Some chili cook-offs are only open to licensed restaurants, but most include a public category in which anyone can enter. You must bring your own ingredients and cook a large-enough quantity to provide samples for visitors, who usually pay a fee to taste and will receive a small paper cup and plastic spoon to taste it. In some contests, attendees get to vote for a people’s choice award. These competitions are also open to the hungry foodies eager to savor tantalizing chili flavors. Whether you like beef, chicken or even vegan chili, you’re bound to find the flavors you seek at these events on the RV chili trail.

RV Chili Trail to 2017 Chili Cook-offs

  • If you feel your chili-cooking skills are superior, you’re likely dreaming of winning the grand prize for first place in the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff, October 20-22 in Reno, Nevada. The event is sponsored by the International Chili Society (ICS), which has 2,000 active members and puts on 150 to 200 cook-offs each year. Chili cooks can win hundreds, even thousands of dollars for their best rendition of red chili.
  • California’s Palo Alto 36th Annual Chili Cookoff will be held on the 4th of July in Mitchell Park in Palo Alto. Come for the chili tastings, food trucks and family fun, including live music and outdoor activities. Last year’s People’s Choice award went to the Klemens Family — as did the $500 cash prize.
  • San Diego’s 38th Annual Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off Festival on June 24th includes bands, merchandise and food vendors. There’s also a Chili Competition for amateur entrants. Contestants are awarded for Hottest Chili, Judges’ Award and People’s Choice Award. Last year drew 70,000-plus visitors!
  • And for authentic Texas chili, the 51st Annual Original Terlingua International Chili Championship takes place in Terlingua, November 1–4.
  • The PA State Championships at the Hanover Chili Cook Off is just around the corner on September 3.
    As part of the event, the Ghon Eckley Memorial Youth Chili Cook Off helps groom the next generation of Chili cooks.

When it comes to the ICS’s People’s Choice Award, here are a few tips:

● Chili should have a nice red color
● The heat level is your decision, but chili should have an adequate level of spiciness…heck, it’s made from chili peppers!
● Chili is not soup. Will your spoon stand alone in the bowl? It should.

To locate a chili cook-off near you, visit the ICS website home page and select a state from the U.S. map. Check out more food tips and news on the Good Sam Blog.

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing ebooks on Amazon Kindle.

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2 comments

  1. Anonymous

    It would be nice to know where the cook offs are going to be!

    • Bob Difley

      Click on the red links in the article for each of the Chili Cookoffs to go to their websites for location and date information.