Graphic courtesy of PINELLAS PARK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2193
Pinellas Park firefighters are hosting their 15th annual Chili Blaze March 14 at England Brothers Park.
PINELLAS PARK – The 15th annual Chili Blaze, organized by Pinellas Park firefighters, is not only a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association but promises to be a great night of family fun.
“We’re looking forward to having a good time again this year,” said firefighter Nick DelGrosso, organizer for the event.
The event, scheduled the day before Country in the Park, is Friday, March 14, 6 to 11 p.m., at England Brothers Park, 5010 81st Ave. N. in Pinellas Park. Admission is free, and all-you-can-sample wristbands are $8.
The firefighters raised about $20,000 last year for the association. They’d like to raise more this year, but remain committed to keeping the event affordable for Pinellas Park families.
“The prices have gotten so high everywhere,” DelGrosso said. “It’s good for the community to have some place to go and not have to spend any money.”
“We hope you do,” he quickly added.
This year will see the return of local band and crowd favorite Big Brother. The group was the first of two bands last year, but was such a success that the firefighters didn’t see a need to hire anyone else.
“They’re very outgoing. They’re fun to watch. They get involved with the crowd and get people dancing,” DelGrosso said.
The band – featuring vocalist Markus Allen, Kevin Rothney on bass, Marc Dupuy on drums and Dave Arazmo on guitar – has played extensively throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Though Allen has remained the core of the band, the group has moved through several incarnations. The current group began playing together in 2012.
The Chili Blaze, emceed by local personality Radical Randy, will begin with an introduction of the judges, many of whom are city and county elected officials, as well as some of those who are served by the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Usually about 15 families from the association come out to the event to meet those helping to raise funds on their behalf, DelGrosso said.
The chili sampling, and the behind-the-scenes judging, of the 45 to 50 teams estimated to sign up for the event begins at around 6:15 p.m. The firefighters hope the teams can be doling out samples until 9 p.m., but encourage families to come out early to get the best selection and enjoy the live music and festivities.
Along with the chili itself, participants can look forward to a “huge bike show,” a beer truck and an arts and craft show. For children, bounce houses and carnival rides will be set up in two roped-off areas; tickets are priced separately from the chili wristbands.
After the awards, crowds will be treated to a fireworks show by Pyrotecnico, which will start between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m.
Teams will compete for the coveted Chili Champions Trophy as the overall winner of the event. Participants also will vote for their favorites for People’s Choice winner. First, second and third prizewinners will be named in three classes: professional, open and firefighters.
Judges also will award first, second and third place winners to the teams with the best decorations on their booth.
No prize money is awarded for this event, only the thrill of victory and the satisfaction of having helped raise funds to help families struggling with muscular dystrophy.
There is still time to enter the contest. Chili teams must prepare at least 5 gallons of chili, though 10 gallons is preferred. Entry is free. Teams can begin cooking their chili on site as early as 3 p.m. on the day of the event and must be checked in by 5 p.m.