Chamber Chili Cook-Off (FILE)

Sharon Kinney, owner of Derby Mattress, dips up a sample of her chili at a past Chamber Chili Cook-Off. Some new additions are planned for this year's event. 

Both chili and cinnamon rolls will be on the menu at the Derby Chamber of Commerce’s Chili Cookoff.

The event, set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 5 at Madison Avenue Central Park, is returning for its fifth year, and this year there is something new: participation by local churches, who will be offering baked goods for sale.

“We keep adding different layers to it,” said Chamber President and CEO Mark Staats of the popular event, which draws a crowd of about 400 people.

In 2018, it added a cornhole tournament run by the Derby Recreation Commission, which proved to be a hit and will be back this year.

There will be no charge for the churches to take part and each one is to do something different. Woodlawn United Methodist Church will be offering mini-loaves of bread and St. Mary its cinnamon rolls, which it is noted for.

“They’re calling it ‘St. Mary Holy Cinnamon Rollers,’” Staats said with a laugh.

Chamber staff is working to get more churches involved.

“It’s a good way for them to get out in front of new people,” Staats said.

Another new development is among the judging.

There will be three wing commanders from McConnell Air Force Base helping Mayor Randy White and former Mayor Dion Avello to judge the Mayor’s Choice contest winner.

It was getting difficult to have only two people judge up to 30 entries and this also is a way to get the base involved in the community event, Staats said.

What won’t change is the “no rules” concept – which Staats started, is proud of, and stresses frequently.

That means just what it says, that cooks can make their chili creations any way they want to.

Building a community event

But like they have in the past, Staats believes there will be a lot of effort put into each recipe.

“I say no rules but people take their chili cooking very seriously – and they want to win,” he said.

While the chefs can control their dish, they can’t control the weather, which was a factor last year. Adverse conditions caused it to be moved two weeks further than its scheduled date, and the new slot turned out to be a quite favorable day.

Staats will have to make a call on the weather by Oct. 3 as he doesn’t want participants to waste time and money cooking for no reason.

“This is not an event I can cancel the morning of,” he said.

The backup plan is to move the cookoff to Oct. 12 in the Welcome Center parking lot as Central Park has another event booked for that date.

And it can’t be moved inside, so one of those two plans will have to work.

Staats expects the crowd to increase this year.

“The event is growing into a true fall festival. You start small and keep adding things to it,” he said.

He’s keeping the tasting charge to the same price of $5, which is basically like getting lunch for that price.

“If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault,” he said.

The event’s point is not to make money, but to have fun, bring the community together and to help Chamber members get publicity for their businesses.

There is no charge for Chamber members to be part of the event, which started out in the parking lot of the former Derby Antique Mall at Madison and Rock and moved to the park.

There will be 25 to 30 entries on site, with some having been to every cookoff. They, along with the Chamber staff, are looking forward to another chili celebration.

“We are really excited about it,” Staats said.

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