Audio story by Avalon Powell
By Avalon Powell
SAN MARCOS—The annual Dam Chili Cook Off is one of the largest fundraising events for underprivileged youth in San Marcos, and offers good music, fun times and Texas chili.
Founded by Shaun Shaver, all proceeds of the chili cook off go to the San Marcos Youth Service Bureau (YSB)—a summer and after school program providing healthy environments for youth development. The twelfth annual cook off was expected to raise $5,000 on Saturday, November 12, through entry fees, a silent auction and merchandise sales.
“The most we’ve ever raised was about $12,500,” Shaver said, “and to date, I think we’re pretty close to $100,000.”
Gates opened at 10 a.m. Saturday with a $5 entry fee. With 37 booths vying for first place, attendees had a cornucopia of flavorful chilies to sample.
The idea for Dam Chili Cook Off was inspired by the Chilympiad, a chili cook off started in 1970 that once boasted almost 600 cooks but ended in 2003 as a result of dwindling funds. Previous Chilympiad participators, Shaver and Julie Hollar, were determined to keep the tradition alive.
“Me and Julie, we used to be heavily involved in it. I cooked in it for 15 years,” Shaver said. “Then it ended. When the next year came around and there wasn’t anything we started talking, and she said, ‘let’s have our own.’ So that’s how it was born, from the lack of chili in our lives.”
As YSB program director, Hollar has multiple roles in the cook off. From event coordinator to taste-tester, Hollar ensures the event runs smoothly and profits go to charity.
YSB provides tutoring, prevention and educational workshops, and even resume advice for youth 11-17 in San Marcos. The Dam Chili Cook off is just one way the non-profit raises funds.
“It’s a lot of the small business owners in town, and they just love to cook chili and get together to raise money for the kids,” Hollar said. “It’s kind of like a reunion. There are a lot of old time friends here.”
Chili samples were turned in at 1 p.m. for judging, and winners were awarded “ugly jug” trophies created by a local artist. First year cook and lifelong chili lover, Craig Foster, won fifth place for his “Ain’t No Willy Nilly Chili,” but he says it’s all about having fun, not winning.
The twelfth annual cook off was held on Joel and Angie Hoffman’s property at 2812 SE River Road in Martindale, and hosted 617 attendees not including cooks. Winners for both chili and salsa awards were announced through social media. For more information about the Dam Chili Cook Off and how to participate next year, visit: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Dam-Chili-Cookoff-143371155711517/about/?ref=page_internal
Photo essay by Emily Brown