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.
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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.