Toward the end of last week my friend and I headed to Terlingua, Texas, a small western Texas town in the region of Big Bend National Park to experience the Terlingua Chili Cookoff. When we arrived we were surprised to learn that Terlingua was actually the site of two venues of chili cookoffs, one connected with the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI), and one known as the Original Terlingua International Championship Chili CookOff (OTICCC). The latter is the one we decided to attend from Thursday through Sunday, based on the admission price – $25/person versus $40/person. As it turned out we chose the venue that we had learned of when we visited Tolbert’s Restaurant in Grapevine, TX this past August. What newbies we are!
As noted on its web site, “The OTICCC is a 501(c)(3) Corporation. The purpose of our Charter is to raise Money for Charity through the Love, Appreciation and Promotion of Chili!” The charity associated with this effort is the ALS Association.
Borrowing from the Big Bend Now web site, “(The cookoff) was founded in 1967 by Frank X. Tolbert, a Dallas journalist and author of the chili book “A Bowl of Red,” Carroll Shelby automotive genius and innovator, and others. The first cook-off featured Wick Fowler, chili expert and Texas journalist, cooking against H. Allan Smith, a New York reporter. Wick Fowler died of ALS a few years afterwards. He is the motivation behind these efforts.”
Tents and RVs of all descriptions, untethered to any hookups, dotted the dusty hills, along with privately rented privies. And plenty of hopeful cooks pulled out their tents, tables, cookers and ingredients to stir up batches of their delicious specialties.
The competition included not only the celebration of chili, but also beans (pintos and black-eye peas mostly), salsa, chicken, ribs, brisket, and margaritas. Finalists received their trophies in an extended and suspenseful presentation on Sunday, and winners of various raffles were announced.
A big feature of the event is showmanship, and in the effort to raise awareness and funds for the ALS Association one group found a unique way to do so. Within the cooking team of “Pants on the Ground” several members began growing goatees. They called themselves Thirsty Ol’ Goats, and for about six months while competing in other chili events they let their chin hair grow. On Friday they auctioned off Thirsty Ol’ Goat aprons, and whoever won an apron also won the honor of cutting off a Thirsty Ol’ Goat’s beard.
Following submission of the final entries by chili competitors at high noon on Saturday, the apron winners met at the Thirsty Ol’ Goats’ “Barber Shop” to shave their ‘goat’. Now, these opportunities don’t come cheaply! One apron went for $2300! And then there was the counter bid to keep one of the Thirsty Ol’ Goats from getting shaved. The counter bid was final at $1700, in addition to the apron winner’s bid (which happened to be from the Thirsty Ol’ Goat’s wife who really wanted that goatee to come off!)
As things progressed, we had the bearded lady who attached a goatee to her chin and then had it trimmed. She wore it until the end of the event. And the Thirsty Ol’ Goat who had to keep his goatee had his head shaved – by his wife. Another participant also got his head shaved – I only saw it with the ‘Mohawk’ cut, and I don’t know if he went totally shaved.
So, all in the name of Fun, and with the spirit of charity, the OTICCC raised approximately $35,000-$40,000 (maybe more) to benefit the ALS Association.
Other venues at this event offered Bear Whiz (I think it was apple cider), and a chili history museum. My friend and I even had the opportunity to judge the black-eye pea entries – 14 in all at our table. We are now doing research into how we can enter these contests ourselves – Yikes!
Here are some links that might be of interest.
Tolbert’s Restaurant – http://www.tolbertsrestaurant.com/about/about.htm
OTICCC – http://www.abowlofred.com/news.htm
Article at Big Bend Now – http://bigbendnow.com/2014/10/two-terlingua-chili-cookoffs-this-weekend/
ALS Association – http://www.alsa.org/about-als/what-is-als.html