A "massive" crowd turned out Monday night for the 15th annual Tom Daniel Holiday Chili Cook-Off at the Exchange Street Parking Plaza, Suzanne Tucker, event organizer, said Tuesday.
Though the total money raised and attendance numbers have not yet been counted, she said she estimates at least 1,500 people, if not more, were present.
"There were probably more, because some people came in and got hot dogs and things like that. I didn't go last year; I had a broken ankle and I wasn't really involved, but it couldn't have been more (last year) than we had this year. I mean, we were packed and we actually took over Exchange Street to make more room and that was packed, too," Tucker said. "We were just at the maximum capacity for that lower level parking deck and, quite frankly, I don't think any human being could do more than that."
For $5 attendees enjoyed all-you-can-eat chili. Two panels of judges, one for the traditional category and one for the non-traditional category, were on hand to judge the entries.
According to Tucker, the first place winner in the traditional chili category was Turf Catering, followed by The Avenue Restaurant's group, Netflix and Chili, in second place. First place in the non-traditional category went to Fun City Chorus, and second place was awarded to Hot Springs Parks & Trails.
Turf Catering was also voted the Audience Favorite, and the Best Decorated Booth award went to First Arkansas Insurance.
Tucker said a solution was put in place this year to counter the "horrific" long lines and favoritism that have been problematic in years past.
"We used tokens to level the playing field, and we used some random number generators to give every competitor a weird number, so there was no way anybody could know whose was what," she said.
Funds raised during the event, which was hosted by the Downtown Association of Hot Springs, benefit the city's Deck the Park Challenge during the holiday season. Ned Perme, a meteorologist with KATV Channel 7 in Little Rock, lent a hand in lighting up downtown Hot Springs with Christmas lights after the cook-off.
"A lot of chili, a lot of people -- I think people had a good time; I didn't see any ugliness going on. It was a huge turnout and the people I talked to, they had a good time. All the competitors were great and I just didn't hear any complaints -- if they complained, it wasn't to me," Tucker said.Local on 11/22/2017