CORNVILLE - Every November for nearly 50 years, thousands of people have converged on the otherwise insignificant Texas town of Terlingua.
A former mining town, not far from the geographically significant Big Bend of the Rio Grande, Terlingua was long known for its rich deposits of cinnabar, the rock from which quicksilver, aka mercury, is derived.
But in 1967, a group of Texas foodies showed up to see who could throw together the best bowl of chili, an indigenous border dish composed strictly of meat and chili sauce.
The event soon grew to Texas-sized proportions and drew thousands of others into the competitive chili cook-off scene.
One of the organizations that spun off of the Terlingua event and its founding organization, the Chili Appreciation Society International, is the Yavapai Chili Society, a group of local chili enthusiast who gather whenever they can for a little friendly competition.
For the last two years, one of their gatherings has taken place at Windmill Park in Cornville. This Saturday, June 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they will make it a third annual event.
It should also be noted that as the chili scene has grown, so have the chefs' perceptions of what constitutes chili.
Although purists still compete in the red chili category, others have put chili on a long leash.
At the Cornville cook-off, raw foodie Kryssi Gal will have her interpretation. Others will likely sneak in a can of beans, a bar of chocolate and, more often than not, their favorite adult beverage.
Winning recipes have included such exotic ingredients as anchovies, peanut butter and cigar ashes, proving unequivocally that chili is a deeply personal dish, guided only by the whim of its maker.
But as much as the chili is king of the cook-off, it's all about having fun.
"We tease each other a lot, like asking if the other one has their insurance paid up before they let the public taste it," says Yavapai Chili Society representative Jerry Lee, "and we don't get too serious because we all realize it's a matter of taste."
Anyone wanting to join in the merriment, as a chef, can sign up as late as Saturday morning. But it would be best to contact organizer Lois Hook (928) 649-3190 or Jerry Lee (623) 388-9748 beforehand to get the rules (yes, there are some rules). There is an entry fee, but it's free if it's your first competition.
For those who would simply want to come and taste, there is a small fee for a cup and a spoon.
One of the tenets of the chili cook-off scene is that any and all profits go to a worthy cause. And although the Cornville event is not expected to raise the $60,000 the Terlingua event does, what money is raised will go to the Cornville Association. What: Cornville Chili Cook Off
Where: Windmill Park 9950 E. Cornville Rd.
When: June 4, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., People's Choice tasting 11 a.m.
How Much: Free, small tasting fee, entry fees depending on category
Contact: (928) 649-3190