Chilifest cooks up fun sans chili


By Jamie Lim

Twenty-one can be a significant number to people. For some, it’s the legal drinking and gambling age. For others, particularly those involved in the military, there’s the 21-gun salute. This year, however, there’s the 21st celebration of Chilifest.

Chilifest is an annual event held in Snook, which is about two hours outside of Waco and near College Station. This year’s event will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Starlight Ballroom.

San Antonio junior Collin Garcia, who went in 2011, said that his experience at Chilifest is one he’ll always remember. He said everyone at Chilifest had great personalities and were really outgoing. This type of atmosphere is what Garcia believes was the most exciting thing at Chilifest.

However, don’t let the name be misleading. For members of the public attending the main event, don’t plan on eating any official chili — the chili is all cooked and judged before the main event truly gets started.

“Funny thing about Chilifest, there’s no chili,” Garcia said.

Despite the actual event lacking the presence of chili, there is an affiliated chili cook-off beforehand. The Chilifest teams will submit their chili Friday — well before the main event — to be judged.

Michael Casey, Chilifest Chairman, said the main purpose of Chilifest is to give back to the community. Every year, the event gets a crowd of more than 40,000 people who want to listen to great live music and support a worthy cause.

“Chilifest is just a good ol’ charity,” Casey said. “We give back $200,000 a year to the surrounding community.”

Chilifest is a nonprofit corporation that supports numerous organizations in the Brazos Valley and surrounding areas. Some of the organizations supported by the event are Hospice of the Brazos Valley, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Special Olympics. Since 1991, the event has raised more than $2 million for these organizations.

The organization’s mission is to help many less fortunate people. It provides funding to organizations that assist those with life-threatening problems.

“It was exciting to see everyone had the same mentality: have as much fun as possible given whatever the circumstances,” Garcia said. “Even though there was nothing special or sanitary about Chilifest, people were enthusiastic about just having a good time and basically letting loose. Plus everyone comes back with too many stories to tell.”

Garcia said every college student should attend Chilifest at least once, and Kelsie Haaland, a senior at Texas A&M University, plans on going.

“I am graduating in December so I figured it would be my last chance to go,” Haaland said. “I don’t really know what to expect, but based on what I have heard from my friends who have been it’s a lot of fun.”

Another first-timer is Richmond sophomore John Grimes. Two things convinced him to go to Chilifest: the stories he was told by friends and the chance to support a friend at Texas A&M pledging the fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon.

“This will be my first time attending Chilifest, and I expect it to pretty much be what Texas is all about,” Grimes said. “Tons of people, good food, hot weather, cold drinks and plenty of great country music.”

The event has welcomed music legends like Willie Nelson. This year’s lineup will feature Billy Currington, Pat Green, Randy Rogers Band, Josh Abbott Band and Sunny Sweeney.

“I am so excited to see all of the entertainers, but my favorites are Josh Abbott Band and Randy Rogers Band,” Haaland said.

Those interested in going to Chilifest can purchase tickets online at In College Station, tickets can be purchased at designated locations. A list of locations can be found on Chilifest’s official website,

The event is open to those of all ages. General admission is $30 in advance, and $35 at the gate. Tickets purchased at the gate will go on sale today. for those on a Chilifest team, and Saturday for the general public.

There is another type of ticket, which is limited, that can be purchased — the Chilifest VIP Ticket. At $100, the ticket will give VIPs access to a gated area, beverage station, a raised viewing platform and covered viewing platform. VIPs will also get the chance to meet their favorite entertainer.

For more information about Chilifest, call 979-695-2998 or visit the official website. In addition, there are also Android and iPhone apps. These apps feature the music lineup with times, directions, chili team information and much more.