Ahwatukee Foothills residents can enjoy two days of sampling homemade chili and browsing through local craft tables at the Seventh Annual Chili Cook-off and Craft Market this weekend.
Sanctioned by The International Chili Society and hosted at the Ahwatukee Community Swim and Tennis Center March 12 and 13, local cooks sign up, make their chili for event go-ers, and compete for the chance to continue on to the 2011 World Championship.
The International Chili Society is a non-profit organization that sanctions world-wide chili-cooking events and benefits charities or other organizations.
Those who are members of the International Chili Society will receive discounted entry fees, while fees are waived for first-time cooks.
"Attendees will get a chili-tasting kit, which gives them seven samples, and they vote for the best," said Susan Hyden, director of the community center.
The tasting kit costs $5 and the cook behind the best-voted chili will receive what the community center calls a "People's Choice Award."
"It is awesome chili," said Hyden, who created the regional event.
Cooks compete in three areas: salsa, chili and chili verde, which are strongly encouraged to be handmade and cooked on-site.
Dick Swenverger, 72, has participated in chili competitions since 1993. Originally from Minnesota, Swenverger has been to the World Championship 16 times.
"Once you become a competitive cook, it gets in your blood," said Swenverger, who lives in Mesa with his wife, Nancy.
Swenverger said the cookoff this year will be great, and is excited to compete again.
"It's a well-thought-of cookoff," he added.
As for the craft market, crafters and local artists can sign up for one or both days, the community center can also provide canopies and tables if needed.
On Saturday, live bands will also join in on the fun starting around 2 p.m. followed by a bingo-style raffle game around 3:30 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the purchase of a shade structure in the playground area of the park.
This year in addition to the craft market, a farmers' market will be available on Sunday.
"It's a fun afternoon event," Hyden added.
The Chili Cook-off will be at the Ahwatukee Community Swim and Tennis Center, 4700 E. Warner Road. The Craft Market and chili cooking will begin Saturday, March 12, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The fun will continue along with a farmers' market on Sunday, March 13, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information, call Susan Hyden at (480) 893-1942.
• Diana Martinez is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.