Drag out the crockpot, round up the spices, get your heat on … it’s time for the fourth annual A-C-T lunchtime chili cook-off scheduled Friday, Nov. 8 at A-C-T’s Bartow headquarters on State Road 60 just east of Bartow. All proceeds from the cook-off are earmarked for the United Way of Central Florida.
It doesn’t cost a dime to enter, and only $10 a head for the lunch, including a drink, all the fixin’s and a dessert. There are expected to be more than 25 chili brews for tasting and judging.
Tickets may be purchased from A-C-T before the 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. event by calling 863-533-2000, or purchased at the site. Take-out orders also will be accepted.
The chili entries will fall into three categories: hot — light you up; mild — for the more sensitive palate and imaginative — non-traditional pots made with chicken, white sauces or gluten-free.
There will be judging from a host of Polk celebrity judges including U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, County Commissioner Melony Bell, City Managers George Long of Bartow, Deric Feacher of Winter Haven and Jonathon Evans of Haines City, Jerome Ferguson, Sheriff Grady Judd, Bonnie Parker, Doug Wimberly, Nick Nicholas, David Robinson, chairman of the United Way campaign and Roger Todd of Hall Communications. The judging will be blind, with scoring based on texture, flavor, consistency, spice, taste, aroma and color.
Contestants will bring their brimming pots to A-C-T’s HQ early on Friday where judging will start at 10, and lunch is served starting at 11:30, according to A-C-T marketing chief Cindy Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said last year’s cook-off drew more than 250 eager tasters and more are expected this year. She said that should the chilis being judged run out, A-C-T has contracted with Reececliff’s and Mulligan’s restaurants to bridge the gap with their own concoctions.
Last year’s grand prize winner was a Flavorful Venison by Juli Kincart. It also won first place in the Imaginative Chili category. Winners get bragging rights and a certificate.
Rodriguez said if attendees want to taste the chili entries being judged, they should arrive early “They go fast,” she said. “They are that good!”
Last year’s benefit raised $1,026 For the United Way.
There also will be musical entertainment and seating will be under tents on the A-C-T grounds. Parking also will be available on site, Rodriguez said. A-C-T is located at 1875 W. Main St., but according to Rodriguez, some GPS systems don’t register that address. She said the facilities are located just west of the S.R. 60/Main Street intersection on the south side of S.R. 60.
“You can pretty much look for the cars and the tents,” she said.