By Lyn Odom

To bean or not to bean — that is the question when it comes to chili competitions.
The Highland Lakes Chili Pod is hosting their 36th Annual Howdy Roo Chili Cook-off Saturday-Monday in Johnson Park, Marble Falls.

"Our reigning winner from Snyder, Connie Collier, who won the first place granite trophy last year will be on hand to attempt to hold on to her title," said Carrie Kinnison, the Highland Lakes Chili Pod Great Pepper. "She'll also bring the 'traveling apron' that is passed from one winner to the next." "CASI," otherwise known as the Chili Appreciation Society International, and the LSBA, otherwise known as the Lone Star Barbecue Association, will host a chili-local chili-beans-and barbecue competition. 

But more than chili will be on deck including arts, crafts and other food vendors. 
To participate as a cook or a vendor, call (830) 693-5502. Judges and spectators are welcome and judging starts at noon.

Howdy Roo is a fun-filled day with chili eatin' at its best, sponsors say. Chili-heads vie for the "granite trophy," a tradition started by the Highland Lakes Chili Pod CASI and pod member Bill Wilcox, who helped organize the first cook-off, and for many years has donated granite trophies.

CASI will also be hosting the 14th annual Bar-B-Q and Bean Cook Off and the 11th annual Local Business Chili Cookoff Saturday.

For more than three decades the HLCP chili cook-offs have been a way for chili enthusiasts to hone their skills, have fun, promote chili and help others.

Howdy-Roo is sanctioned by CASI. All the net proceeds from the chili cook-offs are donated to charities. In recent years, more than $1.2 million has been donated to charities by CASI.

The Highland Lakes Chili Pod sponsors many cook-offs during the year. This year's proceeds will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes, Meals-On-Wheels, The Helping Center and the Marble Falls FFA and 4-H.

Members of the Boys & Girls Club will be selling soft drinks, chili-tasting cups and Frito pies. Volunteers from the FFA and 4-H will be assisting with the raffle, and The Helping Center will help with the silent auction.

The Howdy-Roo Chili Cookoff includes the following turn-in times for the competitions Saturday: Bean cook-off turn-in is noon; Highland Lakes Business chili turn-in 2 p.m.; barbecue chicken turn-in 1 p.m.; ribs turn-in 2:30 p.m.; brisket turn-in 3 p.m.; and CASI chili turn-in 2 p.m.

Competitors can register Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Saturday 8:30-10:30 a.m. Entry fees apply. Opening ceremonies began at 9 a.m. Saturday featuring the Hill Country Community Band.
"The Highland Lakes Chili Pod invites the public to come judge beans, chili or barbecue starting with beans at noon, chicken at 1 p.m., chili at 2 p.m., ribs at 2:30 and brisket at 3 p.m.,” Kinnison said. “Judges must be 18 years or older to judge. Judges are needed for all categories.” 

The Chili Showmanship competition will be 2:30-3:30 p.m., Saturday with awards beginning at 5 p.m. 
“These chili heads will be competing again on Sunday for points for the World Championship,” Kinnison said. “The public is invited to judge chili starting at 1 p.m.”

Kinnison said people should come and "eat all day."
"Spectators are welcome and judges are needed," Kinnison said.
To judge, call Ruby Ross at (830) 693-3492. For more information, call Kinnison, (830) 693-5502.

The CASI Chili Pod board is gearing up for another exciting Howdy Roo Fest this weekend. The board is (left to right) Ronelda Wendler, Dr. Larry Kinnison, Ruby Ross, Herb Ross, Melba Westerman, Louise Hayhurst, Carrie Kinnison, Susan Dean, Alan Dean, Nance Griffin, Clyde Griffin and Fred Westerman. This is the 36th year for the event, which runs from Saturday-Monday in Marble Falls’ Johnson Park.

Photo by Daniel Clifton

Howdy do, it's time for Howdy Roo!