This year's July 4 Palo Alto Chili Cook-off will be less rowdy and less spirited than in past years, under a new "code of conduct" adopted by the city's Recreation Department, which sponsors the annual cook-off.
Excessive rowdiness of some teams and free-flowing alcohol "bribes" to judges will be curtailed under a new set of rules.
The rules prohibit public drunkenness and "inappropriate behavior" by chili team members. They also ban teams from "bribing" judges with alcohol.
"Conduct that violates these rules may result in exclusion and/or removal from the event and loss of eligibility to participate in future Chili Cook-Off events," the code of conduct states.
The department established the code following an incident involving an individual team in last year's cook-off. The "Top Gun Chili" team was initially banned from competing this year as a result of their "highly intoxicated behavior" and "use of inappropriate language and gestures," Recreation Supervisor Minka van der Zwaag said. The ban was lifted after the group appealed, but the team has decided not to compete this year anyway, she said.
Top Gun Chili last year won the "Curtis Berger Spirit Award" for the event.
"We had no policies in place to support an exclusion," van der Zwaag said. "We spoke to the team about what happened last year and got assurances from them that it would not happen again and an understanding of the family-friendly nature of the Chili Cook-Off."
Although the code of conduct stemmed from Top Gun Chili's behavior, recreation officials intended to institute the rule against bribing judges with alcohol anyway.
"We would like to re-focus this fun, lighthearted event on the chili," van der Zwaag said.
In the past, bribes have involved teams passing Mardi gras beads as well as margaritas to judges. Although the bribes are "fun," the cook-off "is first and foremost a family event," van der Zwaag said. "We want the atmosphere at the cook-off to reflect this and hence have banned gifts of alcoholic beverages to the judges."
The Annual Summer Festival and Chili Cook-Off will feature live bands, line dancing, food vendors and a Kids Area complete with inflatables and face painting. The festival will be held from noon to 5 p.m. at Mitchell Park. Public chili tasting begins at 1:30 p.m. For more information about the Palo Alto Chili Cook-Off, visit www.cityofpaloalto.org.