UM Student Project Creates Chili Cook-off as Benefit for Local Boy Scouts

… Inaugural event features two divisions, cash prizes and entertainment Cool winter days are ideal for enjoying a steaming “bowl of red,” and chili lovers can get their fix – and help out area Boy Scouts – next month in Oxford at the inaugural “Chilly” Chili Cook-Off. The event, set for Feb. 18 at the Oxford Conference Center, 102 Ed Perry Blvd., also includes a Boy Scout district camporee and live music. The competition features two divisions, each with cash prizes for winners, and is open to individuals and teams. Entry fees are $5 for Scouts and $15 for the general public, and registration is open through Feb. 16. The cook-off is being organized by Sarah Ball, a University of Mississippi graduate student from Thousand Oaks, Calif. Ball, who is pursuing a master’s degree in park and recreation management, came up with the idea while working on her Directed Event Programming (PRM 654) class.

“In Thousand Oaks, they have a big festival and chili cook-off called Conejo Valley Days, and people come from all over for it,” she said. “In the South, everybody has barbecue cook-offs, and out West, the big thing is chili contests. I guess I’m helping bring chili cook-offs to Mississippi.” Ball is accepting applications from chili teams for the competition and also is lining up sponsors for the daylong event. The Oxford Convention and Visitors Bureau recently provided a small grant to help organize and promote the cook-off. Proceeds will go to support the Yocona Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, which covers much of northeast Mississippi The competition will feature separate events for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and the general public. Each event includes two divisions: one for traditional red chili and the other for chili verde, made with green chilies. Contestants can enter one or both divisions. Contestants can set up at 7:30 a.m., and the competition officially kicks off at 10, when spectators will be allowed into the site. Winners will be announced at 2 p.m. Chili will be available for purchase, and live music will be provided during the public viewing hours. The Chicksa District of the Yocona Area Council also plans to conduct its annual district camporee at the Convention Center during the cook-off. The Chicksa District includes Lafayette, Marshall and Yalobusha counties. The cook-off represents a new twist for the district camporee, said David Capers, Chicksa district executive. “There have been other cooking-themed camporees, but I’m not sure if there’s ever been a chili camporee,” Capers said. “This should be a lot of fun.” Students in the Special Event Programming class work to develop ideas for community events and find partner organizations to benefit from them, said Kim Beason, UM associate professor of park and recreation management. The annual Rebel Man Triathlon, for example, began as a class project seven years ago. “The students act sort of like entrepreneurs,” he said. “They take an idea and get an event going, and then they turn it over to a partner.” Other upcoming events coming out of this year’s class include an inaugural School of Applied Sciences Harvey Faust alumni golf tournament and a “Woofstock” that benefits the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society. The goal with all these events is to create sustainable events that benefit the L-O-U community, Beason said. The Chicksa District is already looking ahead to next year, Capers said. “Next year, we may not do it as a camporee, but we’d like to at least have a one-day event with the chili cook-off and have Scouts involved,” he said. For information about sponsorships and registration, and for complete rules for the cook-off, go to Contestants can also register by contacting Ball at