A red hot chili pepper with arms and legs grilling in the desert rated as winning artwork for Haley Grimard, 7. The budding artist, who loves the color green, earned first-place in a T-shirt design contest to welcome the 10th annual Chili Blaze festival this weekend.
Truth be known, Haley said, she's probably eating a hot dog at Friday's Chili Blaze.
Like Haley and her family, upward of 14,000 hungry visitors are expected spice up England Brothers Band Shell starting at 6 p.m. About 40 teams whip up hundreds of gallons of chili that could be gobbled up in a few hours. "Come early before it's gone," said Nick DelGrosso, event coordinator. Teams can still sign up.
For $7, visitors chow down on all the chili samples their stomach can handle. White, chicken, veggie, zesty and hobo chili are sometimes served out of toilet bowls and large trash bins. Trophies are given in three categories, with best decorated booth a sought-after award. Judges with the fate of chili recipes in their hands are county commissioners and City Council members.
The Pinellas Park firefighters coordinate the event. This year, the goal is to raise more than $20,000 for the Tampa Bay Muscular Dystrophy Association.
"Supporting MDA is a very important tradition to us," said DelGrosso. Last year, rainy weather worked against the fundraising efforts. "We called it the Mud Blaze."
Chili Blaze is not all about the spicy stuff. The Chuckwagon Grill sells other food for fainter tummies. A motorcycle show and free children's inflatables keep the fun rolling through the evening. Musical entertainment takes the stage.
Crafts in the Park is an event that bridges both festivals. It's open Friday during Chili Blaze and Saturday during Country in the Park, which runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. "This is one of the most eclectic craft fairs around," Renee McInnis, Girls Inc. executive director, said of Crafts in the Park. Redneck wind chimes, hand-painted pottery and sand art are examples of items sold by more than 100 vendors.
"This is quite an economically conscious fair," McInnis said. "For $25, visitors head home with a bag of goodies."
Vendor space is available and Proceeds benefit Girls Inc.
A few new twists are offered Saturday at Country in the Park. The tote design of the customary free bag is revealed and there will be a Pinellas Park Art Society sale and exhibit.
The Equestrian Extravaganza is also new this year, said Tim Caddell, city government relationships administrator. "This provides a close, hands-on opportunity to learn about grooming and how to care for a horse," he said.
Pony rides, demonstrations and visits with the mounted police should delight horse-lovers.
Traditional fun will also be available. A children's tent offers coloring, treasure hunts and more hands-on crafts. Inflatables to jump on loom outside. The city partnered with Nina Harris School to grow and sell trees for $3. At 8 p.m., headliner Billy Joe Royal of Down in the Boondocks fame will perform in concert. Admission to both festivals is free.