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There is a chili weekend in store as chili cookoff returns to Kissimmee, Feb. 18

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 3:49 pm

By Peter Covino

A&E Editor

Need a reminder when it is Feb. 18th in downtown Kissimmee?

Just take a deep breath. Yep, that is the scent of cumin and the other essential ingredients of chili powder in the air, and it can only mean one thing —The Sunshine Kissimmee Regional Chili Cook-off has returned to the Kissimmee Lakefront Park.

If you have never been, you really should get up early in the a.m. on that Saturday to watch the chili cooks in action as they light their fires to get ready for the competition. At stake is the $800 first prize in the Red Chili Competition, and the right to compete in the national chili finals later this year.

The competition chili event usually attracts some 30 chili chefs from Florida, the Southeast and even beyond.

In addition to the Red Chili event (second prize is $400 and third, $200), the competition includes Chile Verde (green chili) with $400 going to the first place winner; as well as a salsa competition and even a $100 prize for the best booth.

All of the judging takes place in tented area near the marina. The judging area will be off limits to the public, but everyone can join in the fun and eating some great chili in the People’s Choice competition. There is a $500 prize waiting for the winner in the People’s Choice competition.

Chili cooks (and aspiring chili cooks) can submit an application and submit their own chili for the People’s Choice event. The application has all the rules, and the cost is $25 for a restaurant. Non-profit groups can set up their own tent at no cost. Call Kissimmee Main Street for more information at 407-846-4643. Other types of vendors also are being accepted for the event. Inquiries should go to Veronica Quinones at 407-518-2573 or

The chili festival recently added a beer festival to the event and this year some 30 to 40 different beers will be available. Tasting tickets for beer (unlimited 2 oz. samples) are available online for $20 and will be $25 at the door.

The beer part of the festival has become quite popular judging by the large crowds at the lakefront, the past few years.

Although the chili and beer are the main events at the chili cook-off, the event also features live entertainment, the KUA Kids Power Zone, arts and crafts as well as various merchandise vendors.

The festival is held from noon until 5 p.m. at Kissimmee Lakefront Park. Admission is free as is parking at the various parking lots in the downtown area.