Hopefully sunshine will be on the menu at this weekend’s 33rd annual Big Chili Contest, Saturday, May 11, from 11 am to 7 pm at the P.A. Club in Oak Bluffs. What will definitely be on the menu is chili from local restaurants, caterers, chefs, volunteers, and enterprising home cooks. The festival, which falls just a week after Cinco de Mayo this year, brings big hats, live music, and awards for best professional and best amateur chili, with proceeds benefiting the Island’s Red Stocking Fund. The fund provides food, clothing, and toys to Island children during the holidays. According to Mike Santoro from Santaro Hospitality Group, last year’s contest raised approximately $10,000 for the Red Stocking Fund.
It’s all about the competition and the live music at the Big Chili Contest. Last year’s winner in the professional category was Harbor View Hotel, with longtime participant Bob Costello winning first place in the amateur category. Ingredients from bacon to chocolate to cinnamon go into the big pots, and contestgoers try as many chili options as they like between 11 am and 3 pm, then the prizes are awarded at around 3:30 pm. Some of the other big prizes include Hottest Chili, Farthest Traveled, and Is It Really Chili?
Music really does take center stage, after the chili of course, with the Baha Bros. returning with their Jimmy Buffet tribute, along with the band Syndicate, and for the first time this year, Crooked Coast from Cape Cod will play. DJ Alvzie, Latin DJ JuLee from Boston, and Martha’s Vineyard’s own DJ AP will also provide dance tunes. The Times asked Santoro what he’s looking forward to most at this year’s contest.
“The entertainment,” he said. “It’s also a week later than last year, so the weather should be in the 60s. The entertainment and the weather, that’s what I’m really excited about. It’s really turned into a kind of music festival too, in a way.”
The Big Chili Contest began with MVY Radio in the 1980s as a winter event, but has grown over the years. Santoro said the first contest he attended was in 1994, so he’s up for his 25th this year. Most of the contestgoers come from off-Island, Santoro explained.
“We’ve got buses that will shuttle people back and forth from the ferry,” Santoro said. “Scott Dario from Island Transport donates buses; that’s his contribution to the Red Stocking Fund.”
This year approximately 20 vendors will compete for the coveted prizes, and you can cast your vote on Saturday.
Tickets, $30, are still available for the event, and can be purchased at Shirley’s Hardware, Crane Appliance, or Trader Fred’s. They can also be purchased online at bigchilifest.com.