Heating Up the Competition

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The Bluegrass and Chili Festival Committee, gearing up for the big weekend: TOP LEFT: Russ Wells, Bruce Smith, Eric Eaton, Jeff Barlow, Gary Baergen, Will Pfeiff BOTTOM LEFT: Candi Szpansky, Sherry Hinds, Dell Davis, Kathy Ricks, Matt Ricks NOT PICTURED: Audrey Schmidt, Pam Steffens, Don Gomez, Ron Bailey, Susan Thornton, Jeff Howell, Dave Chaussard, Larry Rahmeier, Sarah Fiegner.

American composer and pianist John Tesh once said, “The world is full of people who have dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall, of running a marathon, and of owning their own business. The difference between the people who make it across the finish line and everyone else is one simple thing: an action plan.” Oftentimes, people look at a completed project or event and marvel at how successful it is, without realizing the elaborate planning and hard work that it took to create such a success.
The Bluegrass and Chili Festival is arguably one of the most successful annual events held in Claremore, so it is no surprise that a great deal of planning and hard work go into creating this exciting event year after year. The Claremore Chamber of Commerce has been busy getting ready for the festival’s 37th year. The big weekend will be held at the Claremore Expo Thursday, September 8 through Saturday, September 10. Each individual event requires planning not only by the committee but by competitors as well—and with only weeks to go, it is time for potential participants to gear up for various competitions.
The largest and most publicized competition will be the Mid-America Regional Chili Cook-Off. There is a monetary prize for the winner, but according to Dell Davis, president and CEO of Claremore Chamber of Commerce, the winner will automatically qualify to go on to the ICS World Chili Cook-Off, and this is what attracts competitors.
“The money is inconsequential to these competitors,” says Dell. “They want a place in the World Cook-Off, because there are only so many sanctioned cook-offs and this guarantees you a spot.”  
Applications are now available for ICS and other category entries, like the non-profit division, in which non-profit organizations like churches and ball teams can enter and win $1000 for their organization. There is also a corporate division, where local businesses compete for “bragging rights.” For fun, there will also be an open division.
“We lovingly call the Open the ‘Road Kill Division,’” Dell Davis says with a laugh, “because anything goes!”
This year’s festival also presents the “Best Country in the City” vocal competition. Applicants may audition via taped submissions and semi-finalists will be selected to compete on Saturday evening. The winner will receive a $500 cash prize.
Dell also reports another fun development and opportunity for competition—Outhouse Races. Last year, this competition was reintroduced after a hiatus of several years, with the Claremore Police and Fire Departments to help kick off the competition’s return. This year, those two groups are still gearing up, but the competition will be open to other groups as well.
In this competition, groups of four compete, with three persons pushing a fourth inside an outhouse a certain distance. When the group completes the distance in one direction, the person inside the outhouse jumps out, abandons the outhouse, and races back to the starting point, which has now become the finish line.
“This was a lot of fun last year,” says Dell, who hopes that other groups assemble a team, sign up, and start working on their outhouses. “The police and fire are already planning their incredible outhouses—for speed, looks, and whatever else. Something about ‘wiping out the competition.’”
This combination of formal and informal competition, along with an impressive line-up of all types of music and activities, are all part of a consistently well executed plan that keeps people from a multi-state area coming back year after year to experience the Bluegrass and Chili Festival in Claremore, Oklahoma. Festival sponsors include: City of Claremore, KOTV News on 6, Big Country 99.5, Armco Building/Derickson Portable Building and the Claremore Chamber of Commerce.
Start planning your own contribution to this great community and family friendly event today.

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