HUNTINGTON — When summertime gets closer to its end and the last of the warm winds blow in over the mighty Ohio River, that is when downtown Huntington comes alive with the 36th annual Chilifest and the West Virginia State Chili Championship.
Chilifest has grown in recent years and is now an important part of the positive development of the downtown scene. Happening this Saturday, Sept. 21, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Pullman Square, there will be a day's full of events to choose from, watch and participate in for those who make the trek.
The main goal of Chilifest is to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House in Huntington, which is the largest in the state. Located on 17th Street behind Cabell Huntington Hospital and the Hoops Family Children's Hospital contained inside, Ronald McDonald House provides a place of comfort and refuge for families with sick children. The venue offers clean beds, kitchens and private rooms along with a caring staff every day of the year. So far, Chilifest in Huntington has raised over $600,000 for Ronald McDonald House and everybody in town who attends the event is a part of that impressive contribution.
At the heart of Chilifest, of course, is the chili competition. Chilifest is the real deal, sanctioned by the International Chili Society. For those wanting to enter the West Virginia Chili Championship, there are forms to print and fill out at chilifestwv.com.
Once you send in the registration forms, your cooking team will register in person at 8 a.m. on the morning of Chilifest at the Registration and Judging Tent at 3rd Avenue near 8th Street. You have to be a member of the International Chili Society to compete, but that can easily be done on the morning of the event with a one-time only fee of $60. You will have until 9:30 a.m. to register and then you will be given your assigned cooking area.
There are entry fees for each chili contest classification. The deadline for turning in your Home Style Chili concoction ($30 entry fee) will be at noon on Saturday, followed by the Chili Verde recipes ($35 entry fee) being turned in at 1:30 p.m. and the ICS Red Chili samples ($40 entry fee) are due at 3 p.m. After the judges do their magic, the winners will be announced at 5:30 p.m.
For the regular attendees who come to Chilifest at Pullman Square every year by the tens of thousands, beer and food sales begin at 11 a.m. with the National Anthem officially kicking things off at the Pullman Square Stage at 11:30 a.m.
By noon, the live music begins with an opening set by country musician Adam Calvert. Hailing from southeastern Ohio, Calvert was performing at the popular entertainment district in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, by the time he was 12 years old. Then, he moved to Cincinnati where he became a graduate of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, a high school-level institution that has mentored a long line of outstanding talent that has gone on to achieve much success.
After graduation, Calvert then performed on the MTV TV show Taking The Stage. A multi-instrumentalist as well as a singer and songwriter, Calvert currently has two singles out with "Who I Wanna Be" and "Sunkissed Summertime." Calvert will also play at 1:30 p.m.
Performing in the afternoon at 2:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., the nine-piece rock and soul band Big Planet take the stage replete with a funky rhythm section, guitars and horns. Their set lists routinely feature cuts by The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, Steely Dan, James Brown, Delbert McClinton, Santana, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago and more.
As the afternoon progresses, festival attendees will get their chance to compete as well. At 3:30 p.m., the official Beer Drinking Contest will take place followed by the Shot 'N Holler contest at 4 p.m.
Throughout the day, attendees will be able to buy and sample the various chili styles offered up by the contestant cooks. The cooks that sell the most chili sample tickets will win the People's Choice Award. The Best Booth Showmanship Award will be given to the contestants who have the best booth display, cook costumes and appearance and other ideas that show the spirit of the event.
Chilifest attendees will also have the chance to buy raffle tickets throughout the afternoon in the hopes of winning a 2019 Toyota Rav4. The winner will be announced at 5:30 p.m.
The takers of the West Virginia Chili Championship title will also be announced at 5:30 p.m. with the first place prize given out that includes $250 as well as a beautiful Blenko Glass Championship Trophy. The winner will also represent the state of West Virginia at the $20,000 International Chili Society World Championship held in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2020.
More information on this weekend's Huntington Chilifest and the West Virginia State Chili Championship can be found at chilifestwv.com or call 304-634-4857.