Dozens of teams competed to see who which chili recipe would reign supreme.
When Lloyd Thomas, a member of the board of directors of the Robert W. Willaford Train Museum, asked Steven Harris, scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 734, if his troop would perform the flag ceremony at this year’s ChiliFest/Railfest, held last Saturday at the train depot, he agreed and thought that since they were going to be there anyway, they may as well enter a chili in the cook-off as well.
Each patrol cooked up a chili recipe at a weekend campout last month and the one that tasted best, judged by the scouts and leaders, was entered into the chili competition. The Redacted Patrol came out on top.
“I’m not sure how they came up with it but everybody at camp loved it,” said Harris. “I honestly think it was because it had ground beef and bacon in it.”
Campers weren’t the only people to love its taste. ChiliFest judges must have also enjoyed its flavor because the troop took first place in the Mild category. They also ran out, even though they made more than the suggested amount.
Harris presented the trophy to the troop at their weekly meeting. “They were so excited,” he said.
Troop 734 was just one of dozens of teams, from amateur competitors to seasoned professionals, that vied for “Best Chili” bragging rights.
Not every chili team used such innocuous ingredients. Scooby’s Outdoor Adventures used both bison and camel meat in the chili they entered in the Novelty category. “Last year we did bison and elk but we didn’t place in that category so we decided to change it up and try something new,” said Scooby’s chef Carl Stearns, who bought the camel meal at Heights Meat Market on Bloomingdale Avenue. “I can make cardboard taste good.”
His bison/camel chili placed second in the Novelty category.
The annual contest is one of several fundraisers held by the Arts Council of Plant City each year, raising money through entry fees for participants, donations, prize raffles, a 50/50 raffle and the $5 fee for visitors to stroll across the Robert W. Willaford Train Museum grounds to sample the chili from each team in attendance.
Winning teams were selected in Mild, Spicy and Novelty categories, voted on by a panel of three secret judges, as well as a People’s Choice category that was decided by chili tasters.
The 2024 ChiliFest event and Railfest event was a success for both organizations- the Arts Council of Plant City and the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum. “It was also a huge success for our lovely City of Plant City having so much positive activity in our downtown,” said Arts Council Membership Chair Dodie White. “Hundreds and hundreds of people, young and old alike, participated in the fun.”
We are so appreciative of our local Plant City Police Department, Plant City Fire and Rescue, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and our City of Plant City, for their enormous support. A huge thank you also goes to all of our chili teams and event sponsors.