Trout Unlimited Chili Cook Off

With the 21st annual Trout Unlimited Chili Cook Off only hours away, online registration for cooks and teams will end tonight at 8 p.m. 

However, we will be accepting “walk-on” teams on Friday. We must have an accurate list of team names, site numbers and recipe counts when teams arrive Friday to claim their cook sites. The only way to have this accurate list in hand Friday is to end the online process tonight.

The number of sites taken is still increasing, but there are still enough sites to accommodate up to 25 more teams if they only take one site each. At any time during the day on Friday, those cooks that have been indecisive about joining the fun can register and pick their cook sites. Each site still costs $45, and additional recipes can be entered for an extra $45 each.

Friday is a very busy and exciting time in many ways. Teams will locate their pre-selected sites and begin setting up tents, tables and cooking equipment. The types of cooking styles vary greatly. Most cooks use propane burners, but some have large “Coleman style” camp stoves, while others use good old-fashion ground fires and cast iron pots. Those that use cast iron feel that the history in the cast iron gives them an advantage.

No matter what type of cooking style is used, cooks may not begin cooking their meat until the TU meat inspection is done. The purpose of the inspection is not only to determine if the meat is fresh and safe to eat, but to make sure that all the cooks are starting their chili with raw meat, which is the basic ground rule for the cook off.

Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m., the gates open for the public at Ridge Ferry Park. Entry to the cook off is only $5 per person, with children 5 and under admitted for free. There are two parking areas, and the preferred parking, which is directly adjacent to the cooking area, costs only $5 per car.

The free parking requires a walk of a few hundred yards and is located just north of the railroad tracks. Please plan ahead and, if you do not want to pay to park, use the entrance north of the railroad tracks. The weather should be perfect so there is no excuse not to come to the cook off.

All paid attendees will receive a peoples’ choice ballot and make sure that you get your ballot when you pay. Again, paying is the only way to get a ballot to participate in the peoples’ choice voting. Whether you pay or not, all attendees can sample chili to their hearts and stomach’s ability. Teams should begin serving the chili about 10:30 Saturday morning.

Music will start on stage about 11 a.m. Our music this year will be provided by the Whisky Dixie band and the Clay Shiflett band, along with solo artists Randy Baker and Gary Green. Trophies and certificates will be awarded from the stage around 3 p.m. Trophies are for best cook site, peoples’ choice best chili and judges’ choice best chili. The top three places in judges’ choice have a cash payout.

While I was writing this article we had another team to take a cook site and sign up to enter two recipes. Let’s see if we can fill every cook site. Go online to and register before 8 p.m. tonight, or come to the park and register Friday.

We need the support of the folks in Northwest Georgia to continue the mission of Trout Unlimited — to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.