“I was curious if you would like to judge our chili cook-off?” -Justin Goodno, President of the Fort Dodge Chili Lovers Society. My response? Let’s just say there’s one less thing on the ole bucket list. The leaves are starting to turn and there’s a daily crisp in the air. Autumn in Iowa and the beginning of chili season. Because the fine folks of Webster County say its time for chili season…..That’s why! But, the cook-off wouldn’t be the only platter that Fort Dodge would serve up to the Iowa Gallivant. Before the food, there would be the frenzy!
Just another bright and sunny October weekend in the high 70’s. Bring that on any day my friends! Fort Frenzy had the building buzzing inside and out. Laser tag, go-carts, bumper boats, prizes and….what is that!
After a round of putt-putt, a zombie hunt in the laser tag room, taking our aggregation out on the bumper cars and boats, and several rounds through the arcade games we felt our invasion of Fort Frenzy went off without a hitch. Job well done Frenzy’s! We’d stay longer, but our gastro-tour of Fort Dodge must commence. We prepped ourselves with the consumption of dry cereal, apples, nuts, and plenty of H20. We knew what was in store for us. Brace yourselves. Ft. Dodge is cooking…..
The Sports Page had tons of TVs, friendly and speedy service, a stadium like atmosphere, and killer food! We were hungry for baseball and large sandwiches. The Sports Page had us more than covered with there detailed menu that was a force to be reckoned with.
Our evening was coming to a close so, we made our way back to our home for the night- The Best Western Starlite Village. After a few laps around the pool and a walk around the grounds, we quickly found time to curl up in our beds at our suite.
The morning of the big cook-off came and we prepped ourselves for the impending marathon of chili galore. It would be a few hours to go until we needed to report for duty, so that meant we had time to stop by an iconic Ft. Dodge restaurant for a tremendous breakfast.
A couple hours later, we drove to the Fort Museum and set our eyes on the main event. The 33rd annual Chili Cook-Off was the motor for us to return to Fort Dodge and we needed to get our judge faces on. Not sure what that means, but we managed to figure it out.
By the time the cook-off got roaring, we were all enjoying a nice breeze on a cloudless day at 83 degrees. We all know what’s ahead of us and that’s the Iowa winter. The Webster County sun-soakers were out in full force and ready for a long day of cooking and tasting. A few cracks of beer cans opening could be heard throughout the whole day as well. Chili was the main course, but there was a few more competitions to judge. Salsa, best home brewed beer, and team skit. Bring it all on! We’re hungry and in need of some laughs!
The whole event was going swimmingly. Many of the huge pots of chili were made from re-purposed beer kegs with very large paddles doing the heavy work of stirring while the carefully mastered chili simmered for many hours. 2:30pm hit and so did the masses. The loyal locals came with cash in hand and raided the cook-sites of long-at-it chili chefs.
The judges scores were added up and the peoples choice awards were submitted by the paying chili goers. O’Goodies Irish Pub took first place from the judges and The Domestic Divas took home the Peoples choice award. Not all the teams could win first prize but from my vantage point it appeared they all managed to have a great time competing. However, there was one more battle to go. The speed eating competition.
Our first trip to Fort Dodge came this summer as we scouted RAGBRAI. We were thrilled to be invited back to show off the splendor this Iowa town exudes. The greetings were just as welcoming as they were back in June and I don’t see that ever changing. We’ll see you again, Fort Dodge! I’d keep writing, but my recliner needs some attention. I’m full, already!