Chili Cook Off & Car Show Canceled
Swain County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has canceled the Chili Cook Off and Car Show that was scheduled for Oct. 21. The announcement came in a press release on Friday, Oct. 6, following a board decision on Thursday. Reasons behind the decision are pointed to as “new” food regulations and a lower number of vendors who have signed up.
The cook off has been a popular event held in downtown Bryson City in October for more than 20 years.
The board met with staff from Swain County Health Department environmental health in March over regulations that some vendors had to meet for permits.
Board President Brad Walker said requirements such as chili having to be made in a certified kitchen make the event less practical and requirements cumbersome for some of the participants.
“The rules and regulations are catching up with us,” he said. “We’re sad that it happened.”
The chamber has always cooked the chili it gives out at the event in a certified kitchen with a local church, he added.
According to Health Department Director Alison Cochran, the regulations are not new and food vendors at other events, such as Fourth of July, have to meet the same requirements.
“They aren’t new regulations. What we’d found out is they had been charging to taste teste, and you have to be permitted unless you’re nonprofit,” Cochran said.
Requirements include things like a canopy and a way to wash, rinse and sanitize utensils.
Many of the participants are nonprofit who cook chili and compete at the event. However, Walker said, “Usually we have people who sign up later but because of these restrictions we hadn’t been getting as many.”
With the regulations, Walker said the event was less practical. Despite the event not taking place, Walker anticipates it will still be a busy weekend for Swain County—falling on a peak weekend for leaf lookers.
“People enjoyed it; it was entertaining,” he said. “We may try to revisit it, but right now we couldn’t overcome the health rules.”
Chamber Executive Director Karen Wilmot said another fall event will be planned next year. “As this was the only fundraiser that the Chamber has —the Cook Off worked to fund the annual Christmas Parade — the chamber will be looking for new opportunities for an event to replace the Cook Off next year,” she said in the press release. “The chamber would like to thank everyone who has participated in and supported the Chili Cook Off throughout the years. Your dedication and hard work were a great part of what made this event so successful.”