In 1998, a couple of neighbors on Chaparral Way came together to create a neighborhood tradition. Today, 17 years later, that tradition is still going strong. On Saturday, October 3, more than 75 people gathered at the cul-de-sac in front of Todd Stover’s home on Chaparral Way for the 17th Annual Chaparral Way Chili Cook-off.
The Chili Cook-off is a private event for the residents who live on that street. Each resident is allowed to invite a guest. Helmut Kupzok, a guest who traveled all the way from Germany to attend the last two chili cook-offs, says he now plans his vacation around the event. Zupzok’s best friend, Alexander Braehler, won a trophy last year with his Sauerkraut Hungarian Chili.
Other attendees, such as Roslyn Hart, have moved out of Canyon Lake but return each year to attend the chili cook-off. “I moved to Ventura three year ago but I come back every year for the chili cook-off,” says Hart.
One person notably missing this year was Ken Signorio. Ken has been helping to organize this event since the 2nd annual Chaparral Way Chili Cook-off. Ken, a captain with the Beverly Hills Fire Department, was on duty and was unable attend this year.
There were a record breaking 31 entrants competing this year for the Cook’s Choice and People’s Choice awards. There are no fees or forms to fill out to enter.
Todd Stover, one of the residents who started the tradition 17 years ago, says, “We keep the rules simple. Just show up with your chili in a crockpot and you’re entered.” “We’ve had winners ranging from 9 to 70 years old,’ says Lance Lillie, one of this year’s organizers.
The event kicked off around 1 p.m. For the next few hours the residents and their guests mixed and mingled, while tasting 31 varieties of chili. The kids spent hours playing ping pong and cornhole games, and jumping in the bounce house.
At 3:30 p.m., the attendees gathered to take their traditional group photo. At 4, the ballots were passed out and the voting began.
Lance Lillie won the People’s Choice award this year with his “Sin City Chili.” Lance has won at least one award 10 out of the past 17 years. Because he’s one of the organizers and won so many times in the past, he tried to recuse himself this year. But he says Todd wouldn’t let him because he had too many votes.
The 2nd and 3rd place winners of the People’s Choice award were Erica Eddy and Mike Cuicci.
Debbie Moreno won the 1st place Cook’s Choice award. The 2nd and 3rd place winners were Pat Caldwell and Brian Bale.
Those who won 1st place in both Cook’s Choice and People’s Choice received a perpetual trophy, which they must bring back next year and pass on to the new 1st place winners. Trophies also were awarded to the 2nd and 3rd place winners, who get to keep their trophies.
New this year were the hats awarded to the winners. “17th Annual Chaparral Way Chili Cook-off Winner” is embroidered on each hat. Also new this year were the personalized 17th Annual Chaparral Way Chili Cook-off T-shirts, which attendees had the opportunity to purchase weeks before the event. In addition, Lance Lillie started a Chaparral Way Chili Cook-off Facebook group so members can swap photos and stories, and stay in touch all year long.
The organizers are considering adding a kids category next year. “Six of this year’s entrants were kids, most under 13 years old,” says Lance. Todd says, “Some of the adults who attend this event were kids when we started 17 years ago; now they attend with kids of their own.”
“Todd really is the driving force behind this event and making it a success,” says Lance. “Each year he goes door to door handing out flyers and making sure people attend.” Todd takes pride in knowing that this event he started 17 years ago has brought the neighbors on his block closer together. He says, “Our chili cook-offs bring our neighbors together and gives them an opportunity to get to know each other better. A lot of friendships have been formed at our chili cook-offs. We hope to carry on this annual tradition for many years to come.”