ChiliFest moving back a week to Sept. 21

February 26, 2019

HUNTINGTON — When it comes to planning ChiliFest, the West Virginia State Chili Championship, organizer Ron Smith usually takes a look at Marshall University’s football schedule and other big events that happen in September.

But a recent event booking in Des Moines, Iowa, has Smith punting the 36th annual ChiliFest back a week.

The 2019 ChiliFest was slotted up for Saturday, Sept. 15, but has been officially moved to Saturday, Sept. 21, after Smith

found out that the International Chili Society’s annual World Chili Championship had been moved from the first weekend in October to a Sept. 6-8 run in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The cooks are going there for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and they are not going to pack into Huntington that following weekend. Some of them won’t get home until Monday or Tuesday,” Smith said. “So I started looking, and at first it looked like nothing but bad decisions, but that Sept. 21 is a bye week also for Marshall, so I talked to my other sponsors, and they all came back to that Sept. 21 date and said that works for us, so we’re going to move it to Sept. 21.”

Smith said that the ICS moving the World Championship Cook off to early September will also change the dynamic a bit for ChiliFest, which typically had lured in chili cooks from all of the surrounding states and even beyond who were trying to qualify for one more event before the World Championships, where cooks can win up to $20,000.

“We were one of the last qualifying cookoffs, but with them that second weekend of September, we are not going to be one of the first cook offs in the country. So it may make some of the people who just came from the World’s want to go and get it done for the next year,” Smith said. “It makes sense on that level. On a stamina point for me, it is tough, but it is what it is.”

For Smith, the later date means he will be producing ChiliFest on Sept. 21, and then turning around the next weekend and running the kitchen as his home church, St. George Greek Orthodox Church, organizes its super-sized Greek Fest, set for Sept. 27-29.

Smith said they are excited to not be on the same day as a Marshall football game — as game day can cut into the crowd at ChiliFest, which averages about 25,000 people, making it one of the largest one-day festivals in Huntington.

That steady and large crowd through the years has helped raise more than $550,000 through the years for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Tri-State, as well as raising money for WSAZ Children’s Charities.

With the new date secured, Smith said he is now reaching out to some old favorite People’s Choice booths as well as some newer community booths to make sure the fest has a large number of community booths, which raise the bulk of the money for Ronald McDonald House through the sale of $1 samples.

“What we are really going to try to work on is the community teams that get involved. We are going to push harder on the health care community to get involved. Cabell is a big sponsor, but we want some of the other health care networks to get involved as well as some of the favorite booths like Coal Miner’s Breakfast and Hillbilly Chili. In March and April, we are going to start reaching out to those groups and challenge them to get involved again.”

Go online at https://www.chilifestwv.com to connect with ChiliFest.