VIDEO: Annual Palo Alto Chili Cook-Off draws thousands

Lounge Lizard Chili scores 'Best Overall' at annual Fourth of July event in Palo Alto

Mitchell Park in Palo Alto was swarmed with eager chili eaters Wednesday, July 4, for the 31st annual Palo Alto Summer Festival and Chili Cook-Off. Thousands of people attended the popular event, including many families. Attendees danced and scarfed down spoonfuls of chili while listening to live music by The Hitmen.

Seventeen chili teams competed for prizes ranging from "Best Decorated Booth" to "Best Overall Chili." There were also "People's Choice" and "Youth Choice" winners, as selected by attendees of the event. Chili team Elmo & the Old Quackers won "Best Booth" for its "Wizard of Oz" decorations that included an Emerald City facade.

One group that took part this year was Project Safety Net, which was founded in 2009 to implement a community mental-health plan for Palo Alto youth in response to a local cluster of teen suicides. Students were on the "Asset Builders Chili" team along with adults, promoting the concepts of positive adult role models and youth participation in the community.

"The cook-off is a great tradition, and this team that represents so many parts of the community is an embodiment of the spirit of Project Safety Net and the spirit of the cook-off," said Terry Godfrey, the team's head cook.

The cook-off has become a widely attended local event. At least five new teams faced off against groups of returning chefs, said Minka van der Zwaag, city supervisor of recreation programs. Van der Zwaag estimated that about 5,000 people attended the cook-off this year.

The event included disco, funk, soul and Latin music by The Hitmen; line dancing with Hedy McAdams; food vendors; and face-painting and other kids' activities.

In the "Corporate Division" -- which the city described as "any business, non-profit, community or service organization, or other formal organization from which you have recruited your team" -- the competing teams were Whole Foods Palo Alto, Wow! Catering, Palo Alto Professional Fire Fighters Local #1319, Ada's Cafe & the Magical Bridge, Team Vineyard, Palo Alto Family YMCA, The Counter and Asset Builders Chili.

In the "Open Division" (for any team not considered to be "corporate"), the competing teams were The Toques, Margarita-Meata Chili, Mas Bueno Chili, Rich Chili, Chili Hut, One Love, Good King Wench and Lass, Lounge Lizard Chili and Elmo & the Old Quackers.

Palo Alto Online will post a video highlighting the event tomorrow, July 6.

Did you attend the Palo Alto Chili Cook-Off? Send us your photos.

This year's Palo Alto Chili Cook-Off winners were:

• Best Overall: Lounge Lizard Chili

• Best Spirit: Ada's Cafe & the Magical Bridge

• Best Booth: Elmo & the Old Quackers

• People's Choice: Palo Alto Professional Fire Fighters Local #1319

• Youth Choice: Palo Alto Professional Fire Fighters Local #1319

Open Division

• First Place: Lounge Lizard Chili

• Second Place: Rich Chili

• Third Place: Chili Hut

Corporate Division

• First Place: Team Vineyard

• Second Place: Whole Foods Market Palo Alto

• Third Place: Palo Alto Professional Fire Fighters Local #1319

Maytal Mark contributed to this story.

— Tyler Hanley

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Like this comment
Posted by Occasional Cyclist
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

On the subject of 4th July in Palo Alto, my family followed our July 4 tradition of riding our bikes to watch the Shoreline fireworks, as did many others. However, the tunnel remains closed which meant that many people were climbing over the fence, carrying kids over the fence, carrying bikes over the fence, to access the tunnel. We decided to use the very dangerous alternative, San Antonio bridge.

Most of the bikes using this bridge were without lights and the traffic was heavier than we expected for a midweek holiday evening, both exiting the highway as well as using the bridge to get to the fireworks.

The one safe bike/ped crossing in north Palo Alto is not useful for us in south Palo Alto when our destination is Shoreline or points south. That tunnel must be kept open to prevent accidents of those trying to access it (which they will even if closed) or using dangerous San Antonio.

Like this comment
Posted by Anne K
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2012 at 11:10 am

Our family had a wonderful time at Mitchell Park enjoying the entertainment. We skipped the chili since the long lines did not appeal to our dog. Thank you Palo Alto Recreation for this awesome family tradition.

Note to Occasional Cyclist, you must not have heard about the recent opening of the brand new, beautifully designed bicycle/pedestrian overpass on the Permanente Creek Trail at 101. It takes you from Old Middlefield Road to Shoreline Park safely and legally.

Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2012 at 11:53 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Why wasn't anyone policing who was consuming alcohol? There were dozens of underage teens on the hill overlooking the dog run that were obviously drunk. There were cases of empty beer cans and teens in the trees breaking the branches. They had been there a long time.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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