It's a rare event that offers a chance to sample a wide variety of chili recipes, choose from five bouncy castles to play in, take a hot-air balloon ride, enter a raffle to win prizes such as trips to Key West or Grandfather Mountain and see Darrell Harwood and the Cool Water Band play live.
That event is Mooresville's 2011 Great Chili Cook-off, created by four Rotary Clubs: Mooresville, Mooresville-Lake Norman, Top of the Lake and Troutman. The clubs began planning the event in January.
The third annual cook-off will be 4-9 p.m. Oct. 1 at Mooresville Town Square. All proceeds will go to charity.
Each year, different charities are nominated to benefit, and a Rotary committee chooses three. This year, three local charities will be the main beneficiaries: Health Reach Community Clinic, SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) and the Mooresville Soup Kitchen.
Last year the cook-off raised more than $10,000 for charity. The Rotarians hope to double that this year. Sponsorships from businesses such as Budweiser, MI-Connection and OLA Design Works are helping to make that goal possible.
"The appreciation from the charities is a reward in itself," said Ron Anderson of the Top-of-the-Lake Rotary Club, co-chairperson of the event. He said last year's recipients wept in gratitude as they received their checks.
Linda DiTrolio of Troutman, co-chairman of the event, said, "We realize we are blessed as Rotarians to be able to help all of these people. We are a handful of people working to help so many we will never meet or know, because these people are our neighbors."
The South Iredell Rotary clubs met several years ago to create an annual event that would unite them for a community-benefiting cause. The idea of a chili cook-off stood out as fun and family-friendly.
This year's cook-off will have a Kid Zone with bouncy castles, slides and obstacle courses. There will be a raffle with big-ticket prizes. Twenty vendors will sell wares. Acrofitness performers will entertain at 4:30 p.m., followed by Darrell Harwood and the Cool Water Band for the evening.
Last year's Great Chili Cook-off winner was the chef at the Daily Grind Restaurant. This year, contestants are split into two categories: Hometown Cookers, for individuals and non-restaurant organizations; and Best Restaurant Chili. The Rotary clubs anticipate 30 to 35 competitors will enter chili ranging from vegetarian to "white chili" made with chicken and white beans.
Cash prizes will be given for first, second and third place and a Five-Alarm Award for the best chili entered by a fire department. The judges are a panel of local foodies.
There will also be a People's Choice award. The $10 admission includes chili tasting.
Rotary clubs are local affiliates of Rotary International, a service group of business leaders founded in the early 1900s by Chicago lawyer Paul Harris, who wanted to make new friends. He arranged to meet business acquaintances for meals. They created a rotation schedule of who would host each meal; hence the name "Rotary." Today most club meetings still occur over meals, according to www.rotary.org.
The Rotary Club's first service project was to put a public toilet in Chicago, DiTrolio said. Today the club is known for its long-term project to eradicate polio globally. Today polio exists in only four countries, in part due to the efforts of Rotarians.
DiTrolio said the most important requirement for a Rotarian is a strong set of ethics. Rotarians also are committed to the motto "Service Above Self."