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Feelin’ the Heat at Brawley’s Chili Cook-off

Cattle Call Week Kicks Off on Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Plaza as OWB Takes 2021 Chili Crown

Brawley Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-off best chili winner, One World Beef, finishes setting up its booth as the cook-off begins on Saturday morning, Nov. 6, at Plaza Park in downtown Brawley. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

BRAWLEY — After pandemic restrictions caused the modification of most of last year’s Cattle Call-related activities, residents from across Imperial County came out in droves to attend the first of this year’s Cattle Call Week events in person — the beloved Chili Cook-off.

“It’s nice to get out of the house. You don’t really appreciate these kind of community events till they are gone, you know?” said Emilio Reyes, who drove up from Calexico to attend the event on Saturday morning, Nov. 6, in Plaza Park in the center of town. 

Just In Case Chili serves visitors with tickets during the Cattle Call Chili Cook-off staged by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Brawley on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Plaza Park. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

Both the mayor of Brawley and the chief executive officer of The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Brawley expressed relief over being able to have the Chili Cook-off and all the chamber-related events that lead up to next weekend’s Cattle Call parade and 65th annual Cattle Call Rodeo performances. Both feared that pandemic restrictions would cause the cancelation of this year’s venerable cook-off, which wasn’t held last year in it’s traditional form.

“It’s so good to have these events in person and to see that the Cattle Call is going to happen this year with spectators and everything. It’s all awesome to see families out and about this whole week of events, like there’s something almost every night and all throughout next week,” Brawley Mayor Luke Hamby said. “We’re excited.”

Some Cattle Call Week activities were held last year, including some form of a chili contest, a virtual mariachi night, an online parade, and other events, but everything was done at a distance. Rodeo riders, for instance, competed in an empty arena and the performances were livestreamed.

Cattle Call Week kicks off with the chili cook-off (and an added component this year of a cornhole tournament), which is celebrated over 10 days, culminating in the Sunday matinee performance of the rodeo.

“This is the first four events that we host leading up to the rodeo. We do the Monday Cattle Call Mixer at Sun Community on Monday (Nov. 8), Wednesday (Nov. 10) will be our Mariachi Night here at the Plaza, and then we end it with our parade on Saturday, Nov. 13.” Brawley chamber CEO Ramiro Urias said. “That same day, we have two showings for the rodeo, and then we have one more on Sunday.”

Participants in the first Chamber of Commerce for Greater Brawley cornhole competition play as the Cattle Call Chili Cook-off begins to wind down for the day on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Plaza Park in Brawley. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

The Chili Cook-off featured five teams who competed to deliver the best chili in the Valley. Those attending the event purchased five tickets for $5 so they could try the chili at each of the booths. The cook-off also featured booths filled with items to buy, sweet treats like kettle corn or shaved ice, and the Brawley chamber hosted its first cornhole competition in partnership with 76 Zero Cornhole.

Winner of this year’s best chili was One World Beef, with Los Chiles Calientes taking second and Pioneers Vaqueros, third. Los Chiles Calientes took the People’s Choice Award. The best booth contest went to Thermal Chili, though all five were crowd pleasers. 

“I really liked the Just in Case Chili booth, it had a lot of meat in it. I even went back for seconds. I would go back for thirds, but I couldn’t eat another bite,” Beth Smith of Brawley said. 

Just In Case Chili was a team made up of employees from Jordan Central Implement Co., an agriculture equipment business in Brawley, but the team members refused to share what went into their chili, saying it was a secret recipe.

“There’s definitely a secret. And just the people that make it, make it with love,” team member Gilbert Rios said. “Everybody’s very dedicated.”

The best booth winner, Thermal Chili, featured staff from all of CalEnergy Operating Corp.’s Imperial County geothermal departments. Their booth theme played on the hot nature of both chilies and geothermal energy. 

Mark Gran of CalEnergy Operating Corp. calls to visitors of the Cattle Call Chili Cook-off as they walk past his company’s booth, Thermal Chili, which won the best booth contest, on Saturday, Nov. 6. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

“It’s Thermal Chili made from the heat of the Earth,” said Mark Gran, who works in land management and community relations for CalEnergy. The company runs 10 geothermal plants in Imperial County. 

Gran shared that CalEnergy participated in 2018 and again 2019, when the team won the People’s Choice Award. Gran said that as much as he would like to see his team win, it was being able to be among the community that was important to him.

“Well, we’re glad to be able to be out here again after COVID. It’s great to be out in the public. And we’re just thrilled to be able to participate in a community event like this and help the community out and raise money for the chamber and others,” Grand added. “So we’re having a blast.”

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