Chili Cook-Off Draws Thousands Over Extended Festival Weekend

After a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, the Malibu Chili Cook-Off returned full throttle over the Labor Day Weekend. The four-day-long event, presented for the second time by the nonprofit Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM), appeared to be a huge success despite pandemic protocols calling for mask-wearing, social distancing and online-only ticket sales.

A good time was had by many. Point Dume resident Shelby Meade took to social media to share her positive experience.

“I went and had a great time,” Meade wrote, adding, “I loved the skate kids on the half-pipe and the climbing wall was in full effect. I bought some Aviator Nation Malibu Chili Cook off gear, some Havaianas [flip-flops] at the cute Combi truck and a yummy salmon burger. I had my mask on the entire time, other than when I was eating the burger at a clean upright table in the food court. I saw lots of neighbors and their kids. There’s more than enough space to move around outside safe.”

Local skateboarders were encouraged to “do their thing” at the Skateboard Mini-Ramp (presented by Malibu Village), where they were able to show-off their tricks and learn from coaches. The inaugural Johnny Strange Legacy Skate Competition—named after the late “adventurer” and extreme athlete Johnny Strange—was held on Sunday with $2,500 in cash and prizes. Advanced winners were Roman Pabich (first), Caique Silva (second) and Jake Wooten (third); intermediate winners were Julian Jeang-Agliard (first), Nicholas Hughes (second) and Kaishu Okamura (third).

For even more physical exertion, there was the Alphapals 24-foot high rock wall. And for those with good aim or a pitcher’s arm, many chances to win huge stuffed animals and other prizes at games of skill that included beer bottle bust, goldfish, hang man and duck hunt.

There seemed to be more carnival rides than ever before at this year’s cook-off and, for the 21 and over crowd, the Barefoot Dreams Lounge offered a selection of beer, hard cider and hard seltzer.

A few local celebrities always show up for the festivities and this year was no exception. A video of actress/model Nicollette Sheridan and her date arriving at the cook-off entrance appeared online, showing her with a brace on her left ankle. Others included Tori Spelling, Robin Thicke, Scooter Braun and James Corden.

Every effort was made to be environmentally responsible, with on-site recycling, waste bins and composting available throughout the chili cook-off site; all food and drinks served with eco-friendly serving products and cutlery, and free water bottle filling stations.

But there were also plenty of concerns about COVID-19 safety at the large festival.

The fair kicked off on Friday night, also known as locals night, with huge crowds—especially teens. Some social media posts complained it was too crowded to feel safe; some fair-goers reported they left early because of concerns about COVID-19. Others said they coped by washing their hands frequently at the many handwashing stations and avoiding non-mask wearers.

“It was incredibly, incredibly crowded—more so than any past year,” one wrote online, “with some people wearing masks and some not.” Another wrote, “It was jammed. My 14-year-old loved it, but said it was poorly run regarding fast pass rides, with long waits.”

Photos show scores of attendees mulling around the cook-off site with various mask adherence—some over nose and mouth, some below the nose and many under chins or absent all together.

Others were less concerned with the pandemic than they were with the prices. One said prices had “tripled” since the last chili cook-off. A mother in Paradise Cove wrote, “It is outrageously expensive. Not everyone in Malibu is rich.”

Some adults were annoyed by teens who were less than well behaved at the event, describing “So many entitled kids” and reports of “teens fighting inside the cook-off.” “It was way more crowded and unruly than in the past,” another observed. 

As for the eponymous chili competition, Green Truck won the people’s choice competition this year, as well as taking first place in the meat category. Red Hot Chili Peppers took first place in the vegan category.

Proceeds from the chili cook-off go directly to BGCM, which was founded in 1998 and is dedicated to mentoring students at all four of Malibu’s public schools with a variety of after-school programs and counseling services.

Editor’s note: Mention of an alleged assault between teenagers in the Malibu Civic Center outside the festival on Friday night were removed; details on the incident were still emerging and there was no verified link between the event and the cook-off.

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