So I keep hearing about this Chilifest thing, like “Ooh, you are living here now? You HAVE to go to Chilifest…” and I am like, what is Chilifest? Well, as I learned last weekend, the Martha’s Vineyard Chilifest is an INSTITUTION. And it’s a whole lot of fun, so let me take you on my little initiation journey.
It all started days before actually, when we began testing chili recipes and trying on costumes. We settled on “Fire in the Hole” – a spicy braised short rib chili with a hint of Mexican chocolate. Steph really knocked herself out on this one and after a few sample batches I agreed, this is the one! We cooked and prepped all Thursday and Friday — smoking fresh peppers and chilis in our outdoor grill, shaving Mexican chocolate, braising an enormous pile of short ribs.
I braved snow and ice to drive to the Costume Company in Arlington (thank you Jeannie!) to rent a huge pile of Revolutionary War costumes — Fire in the Hole, like Woods Hole, get it? I lived at Staples printing banners, menus, handouts. I hired an actress to help hand them out. Yes, I am really committed to making this a big event for Quicks Hole, our groovy casual farm-to-table taco stand on the ground floor of the Woods Hole Inn.
Finally, the actual day dawned and I was up early walking from my house in the village to the Inn. The light in the early morning in Woods Hole was so stunning (I’m not out of my house this early usually!) that I wore my camera around my neck and snapped a few pictures:
Guests of the Woods Hole Inn were happily dining in the front room and I dashed through the office to grab costumes, menus, signs and more. Steph and Jay lugged gallons of cold chili in covered buckets across the street to the ferry. Amy and I followed shortly thereafter. The ferry was so packed with people, they asked 45 people to get off! Volunteers, they said. No one budged. The girl next to me snickered — she had just poured four shots of peppermint schnapps into her Dunkin Donuts extra large. She was NOT getting off and neither were we.
Once we arrived at the vast tent at the Portugese American Club, we warmed up and tried a few of the other chilis — there were 40 contestants there and more than 2000 tasters. The Corona beer was flowing freely, plenty of limes, and a great Jimmy Buffet style band was playing all your island favorites.
The place was packed by noon and we handed out a ton of our Chili to consistently good feedback. The security guy standing next to our table was moonlighting from his day job as a warden in the MV jail. He kept noticing people who had come into the jail drunk and disorderly — not a bad guy, he would say, but let’s just say We Know Him Well.
Well, we lined right up and passed out thousands of little cups of our chili. The Chilifest is a fundraiser for the Red Stocking Fund, a really great island charity. WMVY the local radio station supports it, helps judge and sells all the tickets with their promotions. We met a bunch of the DJs and so many other locals, it was really cool. Here we are as we got ready to serve the crowd:
There were regular people, drunk people, people in outrageous costumes, TV personalities, official tasters from WMVY, lots of our friends and business associates from Woods Hole and so, so much more. A picture is worth 1,000 words so here is the rest of the day in photos:
In the end, all ten gallons of our chili was handed out with a smile. We won nothing more than the joy of spending the day on Martha’s Vineyard listening to good music and laughing with new friends. We were tired, oh so very tired, but it was worth it! A great day. See you all there next year — 364 days and counting.