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Chili cooks stew over upcoming contest

Husbands pitted against wives; wrestlers pitted against both. Green chili, red chili and who knows what else. A festival heats up.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- The talk around City Hall during and after Thursday's council meeting was not about politics. It was about chili.

Specifically, the talk, accompanied by good-natured kidding, was about Friday's chili fest, 2001 -- A Chili Odyssey, put on by the city's firefighters. The proceeds benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The event runs from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Country in the Park site behind City Hall, 5141 78th Ave. N.

There will also be a motorcycle show sponsored by Jim's Harley-Davidson, entertainment by country-western band Southbound and carnival rides. Admission and rides are free. Armbands will be $6 for all the chili you can eat.

But, back to the talk.

Council member Rick Butler, a member of last year's winning team, disclosed the name of his team's concoction: Uranus Red. But he was close-mouthed about anything else lest the competition get a jump on his team.

As teammate Ed Taylor said: "We're prepared for it. We have our recipe well in hand, so we've been working on effect."

Then Taylor issued his challenge to other chili cooks: "You'll all be chasing us."

That's a challenge other teams are willing to accept.

Among those challengers is Susan Wlasiuk of Professional Outlaw Wrestling, which also will give a wrestling demonstration at the event. This will be the second year the wrestlers have fielded a chili team.

Aside from wanting to win, Wlasiuk wants to beat Taylor, for whom she works during the week.

"We're kicking his butt this year. Bottom line. He's like, yeah, if you think you can," Wlasiuk said of Taylor. "We know how the game is played this year. We know how the game is played."

This year, the wrestlers' theme will be Medieval Days and Chili Knights.

"It's going to be all Renaissance," she said. "So we'll have knights and ladies and wenches. ... We're gong to have fun."

Taylor's and Butler's team is facing another challenge from people close to them: their wives. Barbara Taylor and Carol Butler are joining with Pinellas Park resident Josephine Spadafora to challenge their husbands' chili title.

"It's a sad night for me," Butler said.

But he predicted that his team will prevail: "We're known as the Intimidators of Chili. ... It's just another notch in the old handle."

The competition will also come from farther away. More than 20 teams had signed up by the end of the week and the firefighters are still taking entries.

"We're looking for more," Pinellas Park firefighter Nick Del Grosso. "We'll take up to 50."

Among the chilis expected are Frontier Chili and Hobo Chili and perhaps a bathtub full if the cook can figure out how to wire the tub for heat.

"I've heard a few teams are going for green chili" in honor of St. Patrick's Day, said Del Grosso.

But whether it's Uranus Red or St. Patrick's green, the idea is to have fun and raise money for a good cause.

"It's a wonderful cause," Taylor said. "It's a heck of a lot of fun. ... Just come on and do it."

Schedule for Chili Blaze 2001, A Chili Odyssey

6 p.m. -- Event opens, judging samples drawn, Q-105 Jukebox music, chili served, Harley Owners Group Motorcycle show registration begins, free carnival rides, beer garden open.

6:20 p.m. -- Wrestling demo by Outlaw Wrestlers Inc.

8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. -- Live music on the Q-105 Country Stage by Southbound.

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