By Kathi Bliss
The sound of children’s laughter.
The sight of kites flying high in the air.
The smell of smoke and spice.
It’s springtime in Lockhart, Texas.
To welcome clear skies and pleasant temperatures, the Central Texas Tolbert Chili Group, the City of Lockhart and the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce have teamed up for the annual Al Hopkins – Tolbert Texas State Chili Championship and Welcome Spring Day in Lockhart City Park on Friday and Saturday, March 15-16.
The annual cookoff, decreed by founder Al Tolbert to be a family-friendly event, provides the perfect backdrop for residents of the community to come together to enjoy mild spring days, music and fellowship with other members of the community.
The event kicks off on Friday evening, as chili cooks from across the state gather and set up camp in Lockhart City Park, preparing for a weekend full of cooking, friendship and fun. Dozens are expected for the Championship; the winner receives an automatic entry in the International Chili Championships in Terlingua, Texas, in November.
As cooks set up camp, live music will be provided in the Amphitheater Pavilion by local favorite Sam Brown. Brown will perform a free concert from 7 – 11 p.m.
Early on Saturday morning, the community is invited to gather at City Park for a day full of free activities, including fishing, kite flying and washer and horseshoe tournaments as the City of Lockhart joins with several local sponsors and partners to host the second annual Welcome Spring day.
While events, including Frisbee golf and a water balloon toss, will be loosely organized, the community is invited to come out and enjoy the park in whatever way they see fit – whether fishing in the stocked City Park Pond, or spreading a picnic blanket and enjoying free hotdogs and deejay music provided by the Central Texas Tolbert Chili Group.
As the day moves on, visitors are invited to judge a wide variety of food and beverages in connection with the cookoff. Volunteers are always needed and welcome at the judging tables, and any chili cook or CTTCG member can direct those interested to the judging tables.
Bloody Mary judging will begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by margaritas at 11 a.m., salsa at 11:30 a.m., chicken at noon, beans at 1 p.m., chili at 2 p.m., spare ribs at 3 p.m. and brisket at 4 p.m.
In addition to the free events and judging/tasting, the CTTCG is also hosting a silent auction and raffle, with dozens of donated items including jewelry, home décor and a “party cooler,” stocked with a variety of beverages, snacks and dishes.
All proceeds from the chili cookoff, auction and raffle are reinvested into the community, in the form of support for soldiers and the disabled, and in the awarding of the BB Hughes Memorial Scholarship to graduating seniors.
For information, visit www.centraltexaschili.com, www.lockhart-tx.org or www.lockhartchamber.com.