Fiery competition kicks off Tahoe’s ‘Big Chill’ |

Fiery competition kicks off Tahoe’s ‘Big Chill’

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The smell of Tabasco wafted through the rows where more than 40 competitors stood watch over their pots of chili while stirring occasionally and tasting every so often.

The Sun and Snow Barbecue and Chili Cook-off at Harveys Resort and Casino was part of the beginning of a 10-day corporate-sponsored festival aimed at luring people to South Shore.

Five former world champions participated in the chili event for prizes and bragging rights. Most used camp stoves to heat their creations.

Some were multi-tasking with two pots going, one for green and one for red chili. Others concentrated on cooking pork, ribs and corn.

The cooks had their eyes on awards, such as the first place for best red chili which was worth $1,000.

John Packer, spokesman for the two leading sponsors of the event, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Harveys, said temperatures did not deter the cook-off.

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“The barbecue and rib cook-off was a little chilly (Saturday) in more ways than one but there was a lot of turnout,” Packer said.

Packer and others involved want to bring more people to the South Lake Tahoe area during the twilight of winter. Roughly 20 years ago there was a similar event but it “just couldn’t get the horsepower to get off the ground.”

South Shore looked to the Bay Area for help and found PGI Marketing, a large event marketing firm with a branch in San Francisco.

PGI came up with the event’s name, Lake Tahoe’s Big Chill, and what activities should be included in the 10-day event.

An aggressive campaign followed with highway billboards, Bay Area newspaper ads and press releases. Sponsors include Heavenly Ski Resort, Marriott, Coca Cola and Budweiser.

In an attempt to complement the event’s name of Big Chill, Harrah’s booked the Temptations, a Motown group that had two songs in a 1983 movie with the same name.

Based on the success of the first weekend’s events, including two sold-out shows for The Temptations, Packer forecasts more in the future.

“We’ll take a good look at it and hope to do it again next year,” he said.

For more information and a list of events, visit