This is a write up from Sally after the 2008 Deland Florida State Championship.
2008 FLORIDA STATE CHAMPIONSHIP!!
DeLand, Florida is a mid-sized, tree-shaded university town, with deep roots into the 19th
century. Winter home to John B. Stetson, of Stetson hat fame, it takes pride in its historical roots when early northern industrialists
settled here. In 2002 the West Volusia Historical Society was looking for a way to raise funds, and a chili cookoff seemed
like a good idea. The only member of the Board of Directors who had lived in Texas and had actually visited Terlingua
(albeit in February when the chili pots were long cold) was Sally Bohon. She was, thus, deemed the only person who could reasonably
know anything about chili cookoffs. She frantically fired off an SOS in the Florida Chili Page website and her call for help was answered by Ken Rodd and Bill Garbutt,
God rest his soul.
Bill and Ken came to DeLand to explain the ropes and the rest is chili
history in this north-central Florida town. The first year it was held at the Fairgrounds
and a collective sigh of relief went up when enough locals entered the CASI contest to swell the number to the required 15
CASI entrants. That year the winner was Rocky Rockwell from Rochester, NY, who has returned year after year to compete.
CASI cooks from out of town pretty much swept the field, however, the locals became better cooks by virtue of watching them
in action, and in years to come began taking some of the trophies themselves. As the cookoff grew and gained in popularity,
it was moved into the historic downtown district. DeLand got into the spirit of the event. One year a cooking club of women
donned chicken costumes and strutted the chicken dance up and down the avenue lined with cooks. It was a show-stopper!
In 2004 Roger Foltz blew in from Texas on the day of the event, and waltzed out of town that night
with the First Place trophy. Shortly thereafter he won the Terlingua International. We like to think
he perfected his chili here in DeLand. Other mentioned winners: Candi Knight-Arevalo (2005) Keith Bennett (2006) Kitty
Dolan (2007). This is the second year Kitty Dolan has walked away with the Florida
State Champion title.
To be invited as a “Celebrity Judge” has become a much touted local badge of honor, and in 2008
the Open Contest created a separate panel of Judges following the CASI rules for blind tasting. Some seven years after the
original cookoff, the event has grown to take on the mantle of the CASI Florida State Open Chili Championship in 2007. It is now co-partnered by the Historical Society and Main Street DeLand Association, a perfect combination
to bring the citizens and merchants together to foster community involvement. The chili competition is the centerpiece of
a spirited festival that includes live music, supervised kid’s activities, a wonderful
beer garden and vendors. The gates have doubled and quadrupled over the years.
This year the CASI competition proved to be a Knight-Arevalo Family Sweep. Candi Knight-Arevalo, Great Pepper
of the Sunshine State Pod and second generation chili competitor, has been a staunch backer of the DeLand CCO for years. Her husband, Frank,bers and her sister, Kristi
Knight, from Lebanon, TN both entered the competition, the three of them cooking all
in a row on the street. When the judges completed their blind tasting for 23 cups of chili and the dust had
settled, the numbers were stripped
from the cups to reveal that Frank, Candi, and Kristi had taken First, Second, and Third
Place respectively. DeLand is proud to have delivered the ultimate CASI Florida State Open Chili Championship.