To hear my friends say “It is the best event of the year in Atlanta,” it must mean something. A city filled with excitement, activities, great food and tons of venues, I am not sure how anyone picks the best of the best. But my few friends that live in the self proclaimed, “Capital of the South” swear the annual Stomp and Chomp is the happening to be at.
The official name of “Stomp and Chomp” is hard to depict what the event is, but to put it simply, it is an All-You-Can-Eat Chili Festival. The “All-You-Can-Eat” part is used loosely, because if you do not get there as soon as the event starts, or blink an eye, you will miss out.
At 11:00 on the first Saturday in November, Cabbagetown Park hosts the annual Stomp and Chomp for all to enjoy. Sweetwater beer flows throughout the day, and numerous bluegrass bands play free of charge. One of the neighborhood streets is lined with an art show, while another is lined with local restaurants selling typical festival cuisines, like hamburgers, corn dogs, corn on the cob and funnel cakes.
But the reason is everyone comes to the festival was displayed on three separate side streets this year. Booths filled and filled with different types of chili. And for a flat fee of $5, you can eat as much as you want…until it runs out!
As soon as the noon hours hits, the booths are free to start serving samples of their chili in miniature cups. Each patron must purchase a plastic spoon from the welcome booth for $5 and keep with them throughout the event.
I realized early on with the amount of people attending this event that I it was every man for themselves, and I had to keep moving if I wanted to get as much chili in as possible. The trick I came up with was to eat my sample as I was in line for the next, usually finishing in perfect time to add another cup to my stack.
For the booth owners, the chilifest is a contest. Professional judges grad the chili and award prizes in a few different categories. The groups are split up into professional, which are all restaurant owners, and individuals, who are common citizens trying to come up with the next great recipe.
Based mainly on wanting better taste, my friends and I decided to start at the professional row, to taste all the restaurants chili that they serve on a daily basis. Lines were growing as I moved down the street from booth to booth. As I tackled the first side street, I stuck to my plan of eating my sample while in line for the next.
When I reached the end of the block, I needed a quick rest to breath and swig some water from my bottle. It had taken me an hour to complete the professionals section and I was ready to move on to the individuals. From past experience, and listening to others, the individuals have much more fun, creating some interesting concoctions, and awesome names for their chili. But some lack on the taste compared to the restaurants.
As we turned the corner to the next side street I was shocked to see it way less crowded and most of the booths had no line. Curious, I raced up to the first one, and that is when I realized a problem. No chili! So I moved over to the next, and again, No chili! In just over 60 minutes everything was gone. The all you can eat feast was over, and I was only 21 cups deep.
A bit disappointed, my friends and I headed over to the main stage to have a few cold ones and listen to some bluegrass music. Word quickly spread throughout the festival that this had been the most heavily attended Stomp and Chomp yet. Not even the cold conditions would keep the people away.
The once small and little known festival appears to be outgrowing even itself. The packed streets and the fact that the chili barely lasted an hour is a great sign to the folks putting on the event. All of the proceeds stay in the Cabbagetown area and help support the park and local community, a great cause.
Mostly due to the cold conditions, and also the fact that I didn’t want to drag myself out of bed before 7 AM, I decided not to run the 5th Annual Romp & Stomp 5K, a 3.1 mile race to kick off the festival.
I highly encourage anyone who is able to do attend next year’s Stomp and Chomp. It is worth the drive you must make and well worth the affect eating that much chili may have on your body later that night. Enjoy my pictures below.
Like I mentioned, the Individual Chili booths all had some great names for their creations…
…and finally, as I told you, I had 21 cups of chili…Had they not run out, who knows how high this stack could of gone…
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by Red Barber