They say that nothing is certain but death and taxes.
Oh yeah, and the fact that the Spice Boys will be back at the annual St. George Island Charity Chili Cook-off.
The crew from Huntsville, Alabama, who swept the field last year after making regular appearances for the past two decades, will be back again Saturday, among 17 entrants, as they compete in the 41st annual affair, a fundraiser for the island’s volunteer fire department.
After finishing in the basement during their rookie seasons, the Spice Boys eventually took first prize in both 2016 and 2017, the year when teammate Greg “The Hammer” Mechamer took the $500 top prize and then earned a 10th place at the world championship.
Last year, he and teammates Scott Abercrombie, J.G. Carver and Trevor Carver, from Vestavia, Alabama. swept all three of the top prizes, earning between them $1,000, which they donated back to the fire department coffers.
This year they’ll be joined in the competition by perennial favorites Leslie Short, of Lighthouse Chili; Chuck Stubbs, from Water Dog; Dana Kelly, from Mad Cow; and John Solomon, from 10-4 BBQ. Taking on the challenge will be equally popular favorites LarryDarnell, from Pepper Boyz; Bobby Grubbs, from Big Shots; Joe Minor, from Team Lucky; Vicki Gullang-Harris; Mark Meadows, from Blue Line Chili; Tommy Darsey, from The Grill Deal; Cole West, from Great Bowels of Fire; Dwight Jackson, from This-N-That Catering LLC; and Michael Frimet, from Rasta Chili.
Competition organizer Grayson Shepard said key reasons that the once robust field of contenders, sometimes as high as 50 or 60, has dwindled down to 17 is that chili competitions have declined in popularity with the growth of the more sophisticated foodie movement, with BBQ contests on the rise.
In addition, a hike in rental rates on the island has led to some longtime contenders deciding that the weekend competition was no longer an affordable option.
In any case, the island will be jam-packed with visitors all weekend as a island-wide chili crawl, held in partnership with the cook-off but not an official part of it, will bring attendees to homes all around the island. At those locations, the chilis won’t have to adhere to International Chili Society rules, and can be made any which way.
Monies raised at those homes, many of which include games and other frivolities, will also go to the fire department.
The weekend gets underway Friday morning with a golf tournament at the St. James Bay Golf Resort. The format is a four-person best ball scramble, which includes a $15,000 hole-in-one prize, prizes for the top three teams and a buffet.
On Saturday morning, March 4, the Red Pepper Run 5K gets underway at 8 a.m. in front of Paddy’s Raw Bar, with an entry fee of $25 for adults and $20 for youth under age 18.
All entrants will receive a t-shirt. Awards will go to the first place male and female, the top male and female St. George Island residents, and the top three finishers in each of the five-year age groups.
On Wednesday, March 1, an online auction starts, and it will run through Wednesday, March 8. It is conducted at the St. George Island Chili Cook-Off Facebook page
“For 41 years now, we have come together as a community to keep our volunteer firefighters and first responders trained, equipped, and as safe as possible as they answer our calls for help,” said Shepard. “We hope to see you proudly supporting this celebratory year as well, wearing your 41th annual chili gear, and having a great time. It’s going to be a blast.”