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Who has the best chili in Columbia? Cast your vote Saturday

Members of the Blazing Saddles Chili Company ladle samples of their chili during last year’s Five Points Chili Cook Off. This year’s event kicks off at noon on Nov. 3.
Members of the Blazing Saddles Chili Company ladle samples of their chili during last year’s Five Points Chili Cook Off. This year’s event kicks off at noon on Nov. 3. Courtesy Five Points Association

During one afternoon for the past three decades, Five Points becomes a chili lovers paradise with an abundance and variety of the savory dish that’s synonymous with fall.

The Five Points Association’s 31st Annual Chili Cook-Off begins at noon on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the intersection of Greene Street and Pavilion Avenue.

Patrons will have the chance to watch teams battle it out to see who has the best chili in Columbia — and to taste the competition. There will be more than 30 unique chili varieties, vying for prizes in the following categories: Overall Best Chili, Best Vegetarian, Best Texas Chili, Best Non-Traditional, Best Bar/Restaurant.

There also will be live music and activities, such as corn hole and other “life-size versions” of classic games. There also will be a children’s area that includes a bounce house, mega slide and face painting.

Don’t like chili? That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this event. Food trucks will be on site for the non-chili lovers, including Cold Stone Creamery, Los Chicanos and BBQ by Robbie.

What do you really know about chili?

Most folks have definite ideas about chili — it’s better with beans, or without; can’t-take-a-bite-without-beverage spicy, or not spicy at all. With beef, venison or chicken. With beer or without.

The question is, what do you really know about chili? Here are a few facts, even if you’ve never realized or cared to know chili does indeed have a history:

Most historians agree that the earliest written description of chili came from J.C. Clopper, who lived near Houston, Texas. While his description never mentions the word chili this is what he wrote of his visit to San Antonio in 1828: “When they (poor families of San Antonio) have to lay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for the family; it is generally cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat — this is all stewed together.”

In the 1880s, a market in San Antonio, Texas started setting up chili stands from which chili or bowls “o’red”, as it was called, were sold by women who were called “chili queens.” A bowl o’red cost diners 10 cents and included bread and a glass of water. The fame of chili con carne began to spread and the dish soon became a major tourist attraction. It was featured at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893 at the San Antonio Chili Stand.

By the 20th century chili joints had made their debut in Texas and became familiar all over the west by the 1920s. Chili parlors were often simply sheds or rooms with a counter and some stools. Some say these chili joints meant the difference between starvation and staying alive for many during the Great Depression since chili was cheap and crackers were free.

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was a big chili lover. His favorite recipe became known as Pedernales River chili after the location of his Texas ranch. Johnson preferred venison. Lady Bird Johnson, the First lady, had the recipe printed on cards to be mailed out because of the many thousands of requests the White House received for it.

In 1977, chili manufacturers in the state of Texas successfully lobbied the state legislature to have chili proclaimed the official “state food” of Texas “in recognition of the fact that the only real ‘bowl of red’ is that prepared by Texans.”

If you go

Five Points Chili Cook-Off

When: Saturday, Nov. 3

Time: Noon-7 p.m.

Where: Intersection of Greene Street and Pavilion Avenue

Cost: Admission is free. Each chili is available for a $1 donation.

Good to know: Come with small bills; there will be change stations (and ATMs) on site. Patrons will have the opportunity to meet the Richland County Sheriff’s Deputies that are featured Live PD, Lt. Danny Brown and Senior Deputy Garo Brown.

Music lineup

Noon-12:45 p.m: Cletus Baltimore

1-1:45 p.m.: Tripping on Bricks

2-3 p.m.: Big Thunder and the Rumblefish

3:30-4:30 p.m.: Donald Merckle and the Blacksmiths

5 p.m.-6:30 p.m.: Cowboy Mouth