Officials cancel 18th Chili Cook-off

By Joseph Slacian

The 18th annual Wabash Cannonball Chili for Charity Chili Cook-off will not take place this year, at least in its traditional form.

Cook-off committee members met on Tuesday, June 16, and opted to cancel this year’s event.

“The traditional cook-off is not going to happen,” committee chair Todd Titus told The Paper of Wabash County. “We are looking at doing something with the event to keep the spirit of the event alive, doing some fundraising. We have some ideas about where the funds would go.”

Formal announcements of what format the cook-off will take is still a few weeks off.

“There will be opportunities for people to cook chili that include all the elements of the traditional cook-offs, it just won’t be happening at Paradise Spring with the usual crowd,” Titus said.

The committee, he said, “was pretty much all in agreement that it just wasn’t a good idea” to have the cook-off this year.”

“If you look at what the CDC and health officials recommend – essential distancing, frequent handwashing, wearing facemasks – none of that can happen at the Chili Cook-off,” Titus said. “Then you throw in the other elements with 80 to 90 teams cooking in an unregulated environment, many people handling ingredients, serving from one hand to someone else’s hand into their mouth, it’s just not a good thing to do.”

He doesn’t think taking this year off will hurt attendance at the 2021 Chili Cook-off.

“I think we would be more concerned about that if we didn’t do anything this year,” he said. “We just don’t want to let it slide. We’ve been doing this for 17 years, and we’ve had 17 really good years and we don’t want to have a bad one due to this COVID situation.

“We know that the event means a lot to a lot of people, and it means a lot to the local charities, so we’re just going to plan B. We have an outline of what we want to do. We’re going to fine tune that in the next couple weeks and come up with that and see what happens.”

Titus said that he’s heard there’s been negative remarks to the decision on social media.

“This is about public health,” he said. “Wabash County has been very fortunate in this pandemic with as few cases that we’ve had. Our medical facilities haven’t been over run. We’ve got our businesses slowly get back and opened up. We need to get our kids back in school. We need to keep our county healthy.

“It’s about public health. There could be all other kinds of concerns that we’ve had: What would the economic impact on the event be if we were to have the event? Would we have as many teams enter? Would we have as many people donate money? Would we have as many people show up the day of? Would we have as many people volunteer to help us?

“Those are things you might look at, but we didn’t have to look at those because we knew the right thing to do was to cancel the event, and that’s what we did.” 

Posted on 2020 Jun 23