This is the article I wrote to cover the Radford RiverFest and Chili Cookoff held September 28.
Bissett Park was buzzing with activity this past Saturday. Organizers arrived in the wee hours to prepare for the fifth annual NRV Chili Cookoff and had to dodge the runners from the Carilion 5K run that started at 9:00am. While cars and trucks unloaded stoves, decorations, and chili fixings, Michelle Linkous, Chamber of Commerce Director, made sure everyone knew what to do.
The Gazebo served as the center of attention surrounded by tents covering the chili cooks and vendors. As morning progressed chili cooking teams from around the NRV began prepping the ingredients to make gallon upon gallon of chili. The smell of sautéing vegetables carried across the venue and teased the early crowd.
Over on the tennis courts the Bloodmobile began accepting donations as the last runners and walkers in the 5K crossed the finish line. In the Gazebo the Southern Nights Band set up equipment and performed sound checks. The chili cooks greeted the inspector from the Virginia Health Department and all cooks passed his scrutiny and received permits to officially start cooking.
Jack Murphy with the Thompson-Litton chili team set out signs to remind everyone that his team won last year. Intimidation is part of the fun of chili cookoffs. “We are successful because it’s a group effort,” said Murphy.
The NRV Chili Cookoff has been held in the parking lot that is used for the Farmer’s Market, in the parking lot on West Main Street in front of the old location of Central Lumber and this year returned to Bissett Park. The area was cordoned off to permit selling beer and visitors received appropriate wrist bands to prove age. Radford police officers strolled the venue and no trouble was apparent throughout the day. Only people having a good time.
The Cub Scouts were in attendance to sell popcorn for fundraising. They proved to be persuasive purveyors of their several varieties of the popular treat. If you needed an instant fix of popcorn, Lil’ Bit Corny, a Radford gourmet popcorn business was on hand selling sweet, savory, and spicy hot popcorn.
The Southern Nights Band played a variety of music from classic country to classic rock and roll. When they took a break the the Mountain Dream Cloggers and the Dixie Dream Dancers entertained the crowd. All the while the chili cooks had their pots simmering and began to give out samples to a waiting crowd.
There were kids activities including an inflatable slide, face painting, and Sparky the Robotic Fire Dog. The beer truck had a constant line as people tasting chili needed some relief from the spicy concoctions.
The chili teams turned in their samples to the judges at 1:45 but there was still plenty left for the crowd to taste. Not only were the cooks competing for a trophy for best chili as determined by a panel of distinguished judges but also an award for best chili as determined by crowd voting.
At 4:00pm the moment arrived to announce the winners. Emcee David Horton of Radford University did the honors of presenting the awards. The People’s Choice Award went to the team from Volvo Trucks. They have also competed in the Virginia State Championship Chili Cookoff and displayed several of their trophies.
Third place as determined by the judges went to the New River Bicycle Association, second place went to last year’s winner, Thompson-Litton. And, the winner of the NRV Chili Cookoff was the team from Tuck Chiropractic Clinic in Radford led by Dr. Benjamin Bowman. They will have bragging rights until next year and took home the coveted Fire Extinguisher Trophy.