By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Warm weather didn’t stop hundreds of people from spending their lunch hours eating steaming bowls of chili at the 13th annual Chili Fest in downtown Tupelo on Friday.
In fact, it just might have helped.
“The sun’s been out today and everybody seems to be enjoying it,” said Allie West, program associate for the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. “I think the turnout has been great. There’s been a diverse lunch crowd of downtown employees and families.”
Festival-goers filled tables set up near a stage where Tatum Shappley entertained the crowd with his acoustic guitar from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Among them was a group from Millcreek of Tupelo, a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities.
“We brought 13 with us today,” said Latoya McGee as she helped a young woman feed herself. “We brought them last year, too. We do daily outings – whatever’s going on in Tupelo – to get them out and about. They seem to enjoy it.”
Competitors seemed to enjoy it, too. One group called itself Butt Naked Chili – No Topping Required. Another was Trailer Trash Chili Bash – Honey Boo Boo’s Favorite.
Sons of Chili, a group of employees from Sherman RV Center, were brand new to the Chili Fest this year.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment deal,” said team member Mike Allred. “We decided we wanted to interact with the community.”
The group put their heads together to come up with an original chili recipe for the contest, which they’re keeping secret.
“We plan on doing the competition in New Albany and we’re going to do this one again next year, for sure,” said team member Brent Cantrell.
A team from BancorpSouth, Bosom Buddies, was back again for the 13th time. Their tent was decked out in bright pink, as a nod to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“We’ve entered every year,” said team member Dani Maddox, who cooks the group’s chili. “In 2004 we won second place and the next year, we won first. And we haven’t won since. I don’t know why. I use the same recipe. I guess it’s just different judges.”
Festivities continued in the evening, from 5 to 10 p.m., with the Tupelo band 2 Drink Minimum entertaining the crowd, and the announcement of the contest winners.
Chili Fest Winners
– Make Ya Wanna Slap Your Mama Good! (1st Place): BancorpSouth
– Better Luck Next Year (2nd Place): Hospice Advantage
– Crowd Favorite (People’s Choice): Mitchell Distributing Company
– Everything but the Kitchen Sink (Most Original Recipe): Salon West
– Mystifying Oomph (Most Unique Taste): The Farmhouse
– Serve It Up Right (Best Presentation): The Farmhouse
– Rowdiest Cooks! (Best Team Spirit): Rogers Realty and Appraisal
– Sauciest Get-Up! (Best Costumes): Tupelo Parks & Recreation
– Most ‘Souped’ Up Kitchen (Most Creative Tent): Community
– Supreme Scheme (Most Original Theme): GumTree Museum of Art