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Chili Cook-off Season Is Heating Back Up

The competition chili industry is roaring back so fast that even racing car legend and chili master Carroll Shelby would be impressed.


Shelby, best known for winning the Grand Prix in 1923 and designing the Shelby Cobra muscle car, also left his mark on competition chili as one of the founding fathers of the International Chili Society (ICS), which now sanctions or certifies over 100 chili contests. That is, until Covid-19 shattered the industry.


After a year of almost no chili contests, the industry is getting fired up again. Major qualifiers are occurring coast to coast. Just a few of the big ones include the Tennessee State Chili Cook-off in Shelbyville, Tennessee; the Big Bear Chili Cook-off in Big Bear Lake, California; the Illinois State Cook-off in Taylorville, Illinois; the Smoke in the Grove BBQ Festival in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania; and the Oregon State Chili Cook-off in Bonanza, Oregon.


But that’s just the start of a chilihead's ultimate journey. Because if they win at these qualifying events, they get invited to “the big one,” the World Championship Chili Cook-off (WCCC).


Now in its 54th year, the event will occur in Myrtle Beach, S.C. for the first time ever, and is expected to make a huge splash on the Food Sport scene. The event takes place September 17-19, 2021 along the iconic Myrtle Beach boardwalk, right next to the famous SkyWheel.


“We couldn’t be happier about acquiring such a historic event with so many deep connections, and we are honored to continue one of the traditions of a great American staple,” said Mike McCloud, President and CEO of ICS. “Now, we want to deliver the best experience for chili lovers and all ICS members who qualify for the World’s Championship.”


For those who want to join the chili competition family, the process is easy. To become a member, visit https://chilicookoff.com/ and click “I WANT TO COOK,” to get started. New members will need to become familiar with the regulations and definitions of each category by visiting the Official Rules.


To see a full list of upcoming sanctioned cook-offs, visit https://chilicookoff.com/cookoffs/list. Newly sanctioned events are being added to this list monthly, so check back for more opportunities.


Any event that is interested in becoming a sanctioned event, download the application by clicking here. Event organizers should submit their completed applications to vmarnick@icschili.com via email. Most ICS events are also charitable fundraisers. In fact, over the past five decades, ICS cookoffs have raised more than $100 million for local charities.


To learn how to enter the competition or judge the entries, simply follow the International Chili Society on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@ICSChili). To learn more about the event itself, follow World Championship Chili Cook Off on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


About the International Chili Society

Since 1967, the International Chili Society (ICS) has been bringing people together over one of America's greatest culinary creations. ICS sanctions more than 100 events a year nationwide with one mission – to continuously improve chili while raising money for charities and nonprofits. More than $100 million has been raised for charities by the chili arena since ICS was started. To celebrate each year’s pro-chili season, ICS holds a World Chili Championship Cookoff (WCCC) and crowns World Champions. To see previous winners, click here.

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