A Brief History
Written by Event Founder, Capt. Pete Weiland
Somewhere around October 2010, I was in Denver, CO on vacation. Walking southeast on 14th Street, I noticed that the street was blocked off and filled with parked cars. All of them had Maltese cross stickers on them, in one place or another, the age-old symbol for fire service personnel. As a firefighter, I began to think that this could quite possibly be a gathering of cars for a firefighter funeral or procession.
This quiet, gloomy feeling was only matched by the long shadows being cast by the city skyline, the sun already being blocked by high-rises. As I approached Larimer St. I began to hear the noises of a crowd and it got louder and louder the closer I got. Rounding the corner I was greeted with not a mournful ceremony of loss, but rather one of the most fun parties I have ever been to. This was the Denver Firefighter’s annual chili cook-off fundraiser! It was amazing! There were literally dozens and dozens and dozens of booths of firefighters selling chili samples, on both sides of the street. For blocks. The booths were from stations all over Denver Fire Departments coverage area, but also from all kinds of surrounding departments, all having the time of their lives, raising money for a great cause. So it was that the St. Augustine Firefighter Chili Cook Off was born. I stole it.
Yep, that’s right. I stole it, and this is my confession. I came back from vacation and set to work on putting one together with our department as the host. Now some may interject at this point and question, ‘Chili? In Florida?’ First of all…, just kidding. I had the same questions. But, first of all, there probably isn’t a firefighter alive that hasn’t eaten or cooked chili at the firehouse, so I knew I had that box checked. As for attendees to eat it? Well, in my experience, lots of people like to gather together and have fun, and 100% of the people I know like food and like to eat so…. Box 2 checked. Weather? I mean, this isn’t Denver, but, I gambled that a December day in north Florida was a 50/50 shot. The final hurdle was appropriately managing multiple groups of Alpha firefighters competing against each other. Eh, it was like dealing with family. So, I rolled the dice.
Through all the planning and phone calls and meetings and partnerships, it slowly took form. In December of 2011, the 1st Annual Firefighter Chili Cook Off took place at the St. Augustine Amphitheater during their Winter Wonderland season. It wasn’t a very large turnout, but even still we were able to raise about $1000 in just a few hours. I was hooked! Without the teams stepping up that first year and making chili at their own cost, and also without the help of a bunch of amazing community partners, there would’ve never been a second year. But there was, and it was almost the same result. Someone that I trust told me that ‘if you just make it the third year, you’ll create a kind of following.’ And so came year number three and it continued to grow, albeit slowly. Now here we are and we're headed into our 9th annual event.
For any questions specific to the venue, please contact the St. Augustine Ampitheatre.
Be sure to share and tag your photos with us either on our Facebook Page or our Instagram account!
FOOD & DRINKS
The Venue will have snack and beverage concessions available for purchase during the event. There is also an ATM located inside the venue.
The following FAQ's are for Teams and Attendees. Please see the notation for each FAQ.
TEAMS & ATTENDEES ~ Is the event free?TEAMS: Yes, and no. There is no entry fee for teams, however we do ask that you show up to compete with a minimum of 10 gallons of chili for the event. ATTENDEES: Admission to the event is free, however samples of Chili are $1 per sample, and every penny of that money goes directly to the beneficiary of the event.
TEAMS AND ATTENDEES ~ Are dogs allowed?Only certified service dogs with vests and credentials are permitted. This is the policy of the venue.
ATTENDEES ~ How do the tickets work?Each $1 ticket purchased will get you one 2oz sample of chili from a participating team. We usually have 10 or more teams competing as it varies by year.
ATTENDEES ~ What do I do if I have extra tickets left over?Donate them to someone else! As this event is a fundraiser, once sample tickets are purchased, we count on that money going to the charity we are benefitting. Refunds for unused tickets will not be granted, so we encourage you to give them away or just trash them and rest in the knowledge that your monetary donation is going to a great cause.
ATTENDEES ~ Will we be able to get bowls of chili?We have tried this in the first few years with the poor result being that all the teams ran out of chili by the midway point of the event. With at least 10 teams competing, a 2oz sample from each team yields 20oz of chili for you to enjoy. Plese remember, the name of the game here is tasting, having fun and raising money for a great cause! We aren't running a restaurant.
ATTENDEES ~ How do I vote?Attendees will be given one ballot per person on the day of the event. Once you've sampled all the chili you desire, you can cast your ballot vote in the box at the center of the event space. Teams will all be assigned a letter, so vote for your favorite letter! (Example- Team A, Team B, Team C, etc.) Ballots will be counted near the end of the event, approximately 5-5:30 pm. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter and posted to our social media and websites later in the evening, after we clean everything up.
ATTENDEES ~ When will the Jaws of Life® demonstration take place?Typically, we shoot for around 4:00pm, out in the parking lot, weather permitting.
TEAMS & ATTENDEES ~ Are there other activities at the Ampitheater that day?Yes! The weekly Farmers Market will be taking place in the morning until 1:00pm. After the Chili Cookoff, there will be a free movie shown inside of the Ampitheater (title to be announced). Additionally, the chili cookoff takes place during St. Augustine's 'Nights of Lights' event, where nearly all of downtown St. Augustine is lit up with Christmas lights! It's a great way to wind down the day with family after eating chili all afternoon, and it's open air sooooo...