Downtown Edgerton's Chilimania celebrates 25 years

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Andrea Behling
Wednesday, September 3, 2014

EDGERTON—The cooks of Chilimania have sizzled the tongues of brave samplers for 24 years.

This year, the popular event will host its 25th anniversary celebration on Sept. 6.

Chilimania features the Wisconsin State Championship Chili Cook-Off, a salsa contest, a 5k run and an entire day of live entertainment.

The recipe hasn't changed for the chili cook-off, organizer Tom Reitz said.

“No need to mess with what a huge success we have become in the eyes of the Chili Appreciation Society International, Inc.,” Reitz said.

The society has developed formal rules and guidelines for a fair, impartial judging of chili and showmanship competition.

Admission to Chilimania is $7 at the gate for the 11 a.m. to midnight event. Kids younger than 12 are admitted free with a paying adult.

Here's five things to know about this year's Chilimania:

1. The chili goes fast. A free chili tasting for the public starts at 3 p.m., and if you don't get there on the dot, you probably won't get any chili, Reitz said.

“The cooks usually run out in 45 minutes to an hour,” Reitz said.

An estimated 200 to 250 gallons of chili served in 2-ounce sample cups gets gobbled up by quickly by visitors. Each sampler gets a cup and spoon for free along with a voting ballot.

Edgerton's Chilimania is one of the largest cook-offs in the Midwest, Reitz said. Usually the event draws 65 cooks from as far away as Texas, Florida and South Carolina. This year's 25th anniversary buzz might help the event break the 70-cook barrier, Reitz said.

2. There's a high-profile chili judge. Stephanie Klett, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, will chow down chili as a judge this year. She's the event's highest profile judge yet, Reitz said.

Klett will serve on a panel that will judge chili entries based on a set of criteria including color, aroma, taste, consistency and aftertaste. There's also a people's choice and best booth competition. The winner of the panel-judged chili contest will advance to the international competition held in Terlingua, Texas.

3. There's a 5k run. It's a new addition this year, in case you want to get a workout in before devouring a few bowls of chili. The “5k Chili Chase” starts at 8 a.m. in downtown Edgerton. Runners are encouraged to dress as a chili ingredient or utensil for a chance to win the top costume award.

4. Your pet could become Chilimania's mascot. The 5k dress-up isn't just for the humans. Runners can dress up their leashed pets for the run. If your pet has the best costume, it could become Chilimania's mascot for a year, Reitz said.

5. It's a full day of live entertainment. Chilimania starts off with the Monday Morning Dixie Band at 11 a.m. At 2 p.m. the Chicago tribute band, The Chicago Experience, takes the stage. An Eagles tribute band, Heartache Tonight, performs at 5:30 p.m.

Chilimania is capped off with a performance from Project Pink, “North America's greatest tribute band” of Pink Floyd, Reitz said.

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