The 16th annual Clarendon Day festival, in September, will include a new addition: the official D.C. Chili Cookoff.
The cookoff is moving to Clarendon this year after its usual venue, the DC101 Chili Cookoff at RFK Stadium, apparently didn’t include an actual chili competition this past May. The event will now be sponsored by Hard Times Cafe.
“We wanted to carry on the D.C. Chili tradition since we’ve been involved with it for the past 33 years,” said Hard Times co-owner Jim Parker. “The cookoff is sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS) and we expect to host competition chili cooks from all over the East Coast.”
Parker said past chili cookoffs have consisted of about 30 cooking teams competing in three categories: red chili, chili verde and salsa. This year, however, a new category, called “homestyle,” will be added.
“This category is more like the chili your mother used to make,” Parker said.
The teams will set up on the morning of Clarendon Day and cook chili on site. A panel of judges will start tasting the chili around 1:00 p.m., and the winners will be announced around 5:00 p.m. The winners will be the final qualifiers for the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff in California in October.
Festival-goers will be able to try free samples of chili after the judges get their fill.
“Once the chilies (and salsa) are turned in to the judges the general public may taste and vote for the chili or salsa they like the best — as long as it lasts,” said Parker.
Clarendon Day will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, in the area around the Clarendon Metro station. In addition to chili, the event will feature live music; food from local restaurants; beer, wine and other beverages; arts and crafts exhibitors; kids’ activities; and booths manned by local businesses and organizations.
Matt Hussmann, Executive Director of the Clarendon Alliance, which organizes Clarendon Day, says the chili cookoff will be a welcome addition to the day’s festivities.
“We’re very excited about having the D.C. Chili Cookoff,” said Matt Hussmann. “We’re hoping for a great event.”
Whereas the DC101 Chili Cookoff was a music-centric event, Hussmann said that cookoff organizers were looking for a new venue that will allow the chili to stand on its own.
“They really wanted to re-calibrate what they’re doing,” he said. “They wanted to focus on the chili and on family-friendly events. We’re pretty happy about it.”
Hussmann said other Clarendon Day details, like the live music lineup, are still being worked out. One notable subtraction this year: the Virginia Hospital Center Foundation “Family Fun Day” attractions that have been featured in previous years.