HURON — The F.A.T. Friday Chili Challenge gets the weekend’s food competitions started at this year’s Wheel Jam festivities. Families, friends and food lovers got together in the summer sun at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds Friday evening to enjoy the variety of chili entries taking part in the challenge.
The teams set up their cooking stations at their assigned cooking sites Friday to execute all the cooking of their food entries on site before the People’s Choice tasting event, which started at 5:30 p.m. Tasters paid $5 at the gate for a bowl, which allowed for them to fill up with chili from every team before deciding on their favorite and voting for the winner. There were judges tables set up and voting buckets by the entrance where the People’s Choice voting took place. Each bucket had the team number and color representing their division, red represented group teams and yellow for individual teams.
The popular chili challenge draws in local competitors as well as out of state entries. Team “Eggspert BBQ,” from Willmar, Minn., has competed in the S.D. BBQ Championships the past five years, this is their first year competing in the chili challenge, and members, Jeremy and Jennifer Amundson explain their method: “Our secret is we add lots of different chili powders from all over the world at different times in the cooking process.”
Another traveling team was “Beer Belly BBQ,” with their sweet and spicy chili from Glendive, Mont., competing in the chili challenge for the first year.
Some local participants included team, “The Gerrit Boys,” who’s beef chili has been an ongoing favorite in the chili challenge.
“There’s been a lot of winning in this tent,” team member, Trevor Gerrits said. “We cooked up 15 gallons of chili to keep everyone happy and fed.”
Another local favorite was team “No Fru Que,” with Mike Smetzer’s smokey beef and sausage chili competing each year for the past eight years.
Candi Briley who works for the State Fair and S.D. BBQ Championships, explains there are two ways to become a winner of the chili challenge — the People’s choice voting where there is a winner for each division and the blind judging, where both divisions are grouped together and one chili will become the winner.
“I’ve been at the BBQ Championships since it started,” Briley said. “It’s a lot of fun getting to meet all the people that come. Some of the people you see once a year and develop relationships — it’s the BBQ family.”
Winners of the People’s Choice for each division receives a $75 prize and a trophy, and the winners of the Blind Judging are awarded $250 and an invitation to compete in the World Open Chili Championship in Orange Beach, Ala.
Food fun and festivities will continue throughout this weekend’s Wheel Jam event.