Chili con carney

It’s usually the piquant pizzazz of the peppers that coaxes all comers to the annual Kiwanis Club Chili Cook-Off. This year’s event also emphasized family fun.

As a result, the Friday night rides stayed open longer than scheduled to accommodate the crowds, Cowboy Bob lassoed more kids, Farmer Phil and his pig hogged more attention, and a record number of dads leapt into gunnysacks.

Lisajo McGee, Kiwanis Club secretary, said more families would have participated in the games, hosted by Calamigos Ranch, but didn’t know they were free. “People are so used to us asking for money,” she said.

Still, the entertainment, the Porsche and other prizes, and, oh yes, the chili, helped raise attendance from last year, up about 10 percent according to Kiwanis Club treasurer Frank Miller.

Entertainment included demonstrations by the Malibu High School Cheerleaders and Joey Escobar’s Karate Studio students, as well as two recitals by Ballet Studio by the Sea and Performing Arts Society.

Bands contributed their sets, including the crowd-pleaser, Malibu’s own Backbone.

Local celebrities pulled and announced winning raffle tickets Sunday. Kathleen Quinlan reached in for the Porsche Boxster ticket; Linda Thompson fingered the ticket for the trip to Hawaii, which included travel on Delta Airlines and a four-night stay at the Kahala Mandarin in Honolulu.

But the smallest items brought the most attention from the younger set. Two “Barbie and Ken” miniature kayaks, courtesy Zuma Jay’s surf shop, have been touring Malibu with Kiwanis members. “It started as a joke,” said McGee. “We went to the markets to sell tickets. The real kayaks are 14 feet — too hard to lug around town. So we brought the miniatures with us. In the course of three months of advertising, kids were asking how they could get them.”

The club decided to raffle off the miniatures. Kids were following McGee around the cook-off, hoping to win them. After the event, McGee telephoned the lucky girl, Tatum Colby, 8-1/2. “She seemed more excited than the person who won the real kayak,” McGee noted. “I think we’ve started another tradition.”

Marty King, chili co-chair with his wife, DeAnna, thinks this year’s People’s Choice Award was given strictly based on taste. In prior years, voting was based on taste and on quantity — how many people sampled the winning batches. This year, he said, each entrant brought ample supplies. “This year, it was taste across the board.”

Neil Casey, 10, proved to be Malibu’s resident mathematical and spatial genius, winning the Jelly Bean Counting Contest. Actual count: 1,440; his count: 1,395. “The back of his ticket had all the math on it,” McGee said.

So besides the excellent chili and record setting crowds, what made this cook-off a success? Said McGee, “If nobody got hurt, it’s a success.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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