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February 24, 2013

Chilis warms cold crowd

Despite a cold and somewhat rainy start, hundreds poured in to the State Fairgrounds’ Ellison Building on Saturday for the Palladium Society’s annual chili cook-off.

Despite a cold and somewhat rainy start, hundreds poured in to the State Fairgrounds’ Ellison Building on Saturday for the Palladium Society’s annual chili cook-off.

“I think the weather actually helped us a little,” said Ashley Tucker with Historic Columbia Foundation.

Hosted by the foundation’s young professionals organization, the fundraiser was expected to draw somewhere between 300 and 500 participants, Tucker said.

The cook-off has grown both in popularity and number of entrants. The event started 15 years ago with just seven or eight cooks, Tucker said. This year’s event drew 24 entries.

And with names like Nuclear Meltdown and Green Monster, judges had their work cut out for them.

“I’ve had some that have been very different,” said Tug Baker, one of six judges making his rounds Saturday night. “If they work that can be great. But if they don’t, it can be dangerous.”

There were the traditional “meat-with-some-heat” styled chilis to those that featured pimento cheese or even kale.

Having committed to eating an entire bowl of each of the dishes he was to judge last year, Baker decided not to try that again this year. Saturday, he opted for the cup-size samples being doled out to participants – just to be on the safe side. But there were several he had to sample again before casting his ballot.

“It was really tough this year,” he said. “There were three that I thought were very good.”

Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.

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