By: Haylie Smart | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: September 2023
Festival goers can sample the winning chili by purchasing a tasting kit.
What started as a small gathering in 1979, has evolved into an event so big and popular that local hotels and accommodations make allowances for people traveling in for it. In its 43rd year now, the Bluegrass & Chili Festival in downtown Wagoner has remained beloved because it’s a family event that welcomes all ages. “We are now beginning our fourth generation of attendees,” said Dell Davis, Director of Special Events for the City of Wagoner.
The free-to-attend event will have a whole weekend’s worth of festivities to check out. There will be three stages featuring music from national and regional artists in country, gospel, bluegrass, classic rock, and rhythm & blues. Festival goers can also enjoy the Junior Showcase, where youth age 21 and younger can showcase their talents, shopping at the Festival Street Market, free activities for kids at the Kiddie Korral, inflatables, classic and modern beauties at the Open Car Show, fabulous works of art at the Quilt Show, and the Antique Tractor Show, which includes activities such as rug making, blacksmithing, and hay baling.
New to this year’s festival is the Fireman’s Combat Challenge. “Area firefighters will compete in various challenges, including bucket brigade and dead man drag team,” Davis said.
And of course there will be lots and lots of chili. The Mid-America Regional Chili Cook-off will be on Sept. 9. The winning cooks of the International Chili Society Division will represent the festival in the World Cook-off in 2024 that boasts $75,000 in prize money. The cooking teams will compete for awards in a variety of categories and bragging rights. Festival attendees can sample the award-winning chili with an $8 each or 2 for $15 tasting kit, while supplies last. “I love seeing people smile, relax, and leave the cares and concerns of every day behind,” Davis said about her favorite part of the festival.
The festival opens at 4 p.m. on Friday with entertainment starting at 6 p.m. and lasting until 11 p.m. Saturday festivities are from
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Lawn chairs are encouraged, but please leave the coolers at home.
Between three stages, there will be at least 19 music acts.
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