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Rifle brings the heat with 43rd-annual chili cook-off

A chili cookoff attendee dressed as a chili during the 2021 event.
Submitted/Debbie Patrick

A spicy, saucy, delectable tradition returns to Rifle as the city prepares for its 43rd-annual Chili Cook-off this week, the Colorado River Valley Chamber of Commerce announced.

Slated for 5:30-8 p.m. on Friday at the Garfield County Fairgrounds, contestants spend days preparing their tastiest take on chili to submit for judging. This year’s event includes competitions in red and green chili, posole, guacamole and salsa. There’s also a chance for chili contestants to win a showmanship award, as well as a jalapeno-eating contest.

In addition to contests, there’s a beer tent, a chili kids’ corner and costume parade, as well as a chili bowl auction.



Chris Harvey has been involved in the local chili cook-off for the past 22 years and is a self-described foodie. Also a chamber member, he said chili chefs come from all over Garfield County to compete.

“You’d be surprised how much work goes into the chili,” he said. “When I was cooking, I’d probably start preparing two days before the contest.



“A lot of these contestants put pride into their chili.”

Rifle’s annual chili cook-off originally started to cater to hunters coming into the area in fall. Since then, it has grown to celebrate the local community. 

“What I really love about the chili cook-off is the community camaraderie, seeing and meeting new people,” he said. “It’s just a good time, more than anything else.”

To win the showmanship award, contests will sometimes decorate their booths in pop-culture themes. One contestant, Mark Fergen, once won showmanship by doing a Star Wars theme. 

“It just built in a lot of excitement to the chili cook-off,” Harvey said.

Mandie Dovey, also a Colorado River Valley Chamber of Commerce board member, said more than 600 people attended last year’s cook off, as well as between 30-40 competitors. With the addition of beer sales, last year’s event netted anywhere between $12,000-$13,000, which went back into the chamber.

“I think it’s just a celebration for our community,” Dovey said of the cook-off. “Food is one of the best things that brings different cultures and people together.”

Friday’s chili cook-off takes place right before Rifle High School varsity football hosts Basalt at 7 p.m. in Bears Stadium.

“Tailgate first,” she said. “Then, head up to the game.”

IF YOU GO

What: 43rd-annual Colorado River Valley Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-off

When: 5:30-8 p.m. Friday

Where: Garfield County Fairgrounds and Events Center, 1001 Railroad Ave.

How much: Adult tickets are $10 and students with ID are $5. Kids 10 and under get in free


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