The hottest. The fastest. The best actors. At the 29th annual Fort Dodge Chili Lovers Society Cookoff, awards were given out for more than just the best recipe.
Of course, finding the perfect chili is still the main part of the event. A huge line of hungry people waiting for their bowls stretched from one side of the field to the other at the Fort Museum on a blustery Sunday afternoon.
"It looks to me like the crowd is larger this year," said Bruce Walker, cook for the Pheasants Forever team. "We've done 400-500 people last year, and this looks larger."
Gary Murray, left, and Susie Walsh react as Bruce Brown sings the song he wrote for this year’s chili cookoff. Murray played the Sheriff and Walsh the barmaid in this skit which won JoJo’s Bar a tied first-place finish in the Showmanship category.
There were 600 bowls sold, said event organizer Justin Goodno. Ten chili-cooking teams were present, including two new teams.
Before the meal really got going, many chili teams presented a skit or song in hopes of winning the Wayne Goodno Showmanship Award. The team from JoJo's Bar presented a skit with a sheriff and a barmaid as Bruce Brown sang the "Chili Cookoff Blues."
"Last year was our rookie year and we got first place in showmanship. I think we've got it in the bag this year," Brown said.
29th Annual Fort Dodge Chili Lovers Society chili cookoff results
First place - Brokaw Supply Company.
Second place- Aaron's Rental and Sales
Third place- Charlie's Chili.
First place - Gowrie Fire Department
Second place - Aaron's Rental and Sales
Third place - Charlie's Chili
First place - Tie: Jojo's Bar, Pheasants Forever
Second place - Charlie's Chili
Hot pepper eating - Glen Roest
Chili speed-eating - Bo Tucker
The team tied for first place with the skit by Pheasants Forever.
Later, five chili enthusiasts signed up for the speed-eating contest. Each was given a big bowl of chili and ten crackers; the winner was whoever could get them all down the fastest without spilling.
In the first few seconds, while the others were still picking at their chili, last year's champion Bo Tucker had tipped back his bowl and drank the whole thing, easily coming in first again.
"I won it the first year, in 2010," Tucker said. "That's just normal eating."
Glen Roest was the winner of the event's newest competition, the hot pepper eating contest, eating a total of 10 jalapenos and eight habaneros. Six people began the competition, and three made it to the habanero round.
The two new teams competing this year were from O'Goodie's Pub and Brokaw Supply Company.
O'Goodie's cook Nick Stone explained how the cookoff works.
"You get here at 7 a.m., dig a hole, and light the charcoal to get a fire going," Stone said. "All preparation has to be done here, like cutting the peppers and onions."
Stone's soup included bacon, steak, ground beef, five different kinds of peppers, onions and mushrooms.
"We cooked the meat in a separate pot, then cooked the tomatoes and peppers in another one. Then we put it all together, taste test it and let it cook for a few hours."
Over at Brokaw's booth, cook Robert Varland explained how they decided on what recipe to enter.
"Several us brought chili to Brokaw's on Friday, and mine was voted the best," Varland said. "My wife's, actually."
Varland wasn't sure how his recipe would stack up with some of the more seasoned competitors, but that isn't the point.
"We're just doing this for the fun of it," he said. "I'm not going to be disappointed if I don't get anything."
Varland's chili later won the Best Chili award as decided by the judges, scoring a trophy and a $200 prize for the team.
Lydia Henricks, of Fort Dodge, said her favorite was a tossup between Aaron's Rental and Sales and the Gowrie Fire Department.
"All the flavors melted really good together," she said. "Some of the chilis were just really spicy and didn't have much flavor, but this one is spicy and has flavor."
Her father Ken Henricks agreed.
"It just tasted like my kind of chili," he said.
Mark Taylor enjoyed Pheasants Forever's white pheasant chili, and tried to describe some of the different flavors he could pick out.
"It has an extra kick that some of them don't have," he said.
Next year's cookoff will be Oct. 13 2013 and will have some extra events to celebrate the 30th anniversary, said Goodno. Anyone who wants to get involved in the Fort Dodge Chili Lovers can contact Goodno on Facebook or at 576-3673.