On Saturday, three groups from the City of Redmond will compete for bragging rights as makers of the best chili in the city at the 2nd Annual Chili Cook-Off.
The cook-off will be just one of the many activities during this year’s 12th Annual Redmond Lights Winter Festival, which celebrates different cultures’ holiday traditions. The cook-off, which was between the fire and police departments last year, has expanded to include City Council in this year’s competition and will be from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the City Hall Campus Plaza near the main stage, on the side of the Public Safety Building.
Councilmember David Carson said they became involved in the cook-off through his role as chairman for the Public Safety Committee.
“I’d gotten to know several of the firefighters, Paul Richards and Paul Atkinson specifically, and we all started bragging about our chili and one thing led to another,” Carson said.
Carson is the “culinary director” of the council team. Chili is one of the things he loves to make and he has evolved a pretty good recipe from his years making it for poker parties, Super Bowl get-togethers and other events.
“We’re going to dial it back a bit because there will be lots of kids coming through the line, but it’s still going to have lots of flavor,” Carson said.
Atkinson was part of last year’s winning team and this is Richards’ first time on the team. Richards said the team members are not worried about the additional competition and are confident about a repeat win.
“We have our return cook (Atkinson) coming back this year,” Richards said. “And he makes a pretty mean chili.”
Richards said they are planning on using the same recipe foundation but are adding some “new decorations.”
Commander Kristi Wilson is a returning member of the police department team and said they were caught off guard by how many people attended the cook-off last year and after running out of chili in the middle of the competition, they are more prepared this year. She added that this may have been a large factor in their loss to the fire department. Not enough people were able to try their chili to vote for it.
Unlike the fire department, the police department is changing things up this year and using an untested recipe, but they are confident their recipe has what it takes to clench the title.
“We’re doing this on the fly,” Wilson said. “Our recipe is different from last year. It’s one of our dispatchers’. This recipe comes highly recommended.”
And as competitive as the three teams are, they understand the cook-off is all in the name of fun.
“It’s really about friendly competition — an event to do something fun to bring the different (city) departments together,” Wilson said. “It’s just a ton of fun.”
City of Redmond event and marketing manager Lisa Rhodes said attendants will receive free samples of each chili recipe and a piece of cornbread and then have the opportunity to vote for their favorite recipe.
The cook-off was very well received last year and Rhodes is excited to see the event expand.
While the chili cook-off is not brand new to Redmond Lights, Rhodes said there are a few new activities that have been added to this year’s schedule. A Santa Breakfast will be held at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center, 16600 NE 80th St., from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Admission is $12 for ages 13 and older and $9 for children and seniors. Children 2 and younger are free.
Rhodes said they will also have a new candy cane hunt at the City Hall Plaza from 4:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. The hunt will be similar to the city’s annual Easter egg hunt and is for children ages 3-13. Children must sign up at City Hall as space is limited to 150 participants and granted on a first come, first serve basis. Rhodes said more than 1,000 candy canes will be hanging from 20 trees in the plaza. Prizes will be awarded to all, but there are special prizes available for those who find select candy canes.
Redmond Lights will also have returning favorites such as the tree lighting at 4:50 p.m. at City Hall and the Luminary Walk from City Hall to Redmond Town Center. Rhodes said those participating in the walk will receive a Redmond Lights Blinker, which is another crowd favorite.
Other Redmond Lights activities include live performances at City Hall, the Town Center and along the Luminary Trail; arts and crafts; and free food samples from restaurants in the Town Center.
There will also be a free shuttle running every half hour between Ruby’s Diner in Redmond Town Center and City Hall from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.