Steamboat Springs Chili Challenge draws a crowd |

Steamboat Springs Chili Challenge draws a crowd

Luke Graham
Katie Cannon
Scott Franz

— As Randy Homan sat in the middle of Eighth and Oak streets and surveyed the chili vendors around him, a smile came across his face.

For Homan, there is a lot that goes into a good chili.

“It’s got to be the right mix,” he said. “It’s got to be spicy but not too sweet. It can’t be too spicy either, and it has to have good local meat. It has to have all those things.”

If Homan and the other hundreds of people that convened on the Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge on Sunday couldn’t find a chili that suited their preference, they probably weren’t trying hard enough.

More than 20 restaurants and individuals entered into this year’s Chili Challenge.

In its eighth year downtown, the annual chili challenge proved to be a popular fundraiser for Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.

Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett said about 1,100 taster kits were sold at the entrances to the event that featured entries of chilies and salsas.

“It seems as though people are enjoying themselves,” Barnett said.

The event usually raises about $5,000 for Mainstreet, Barnett said, making it a big fundraiser.

“It is big,” she said. “It’s $5,000 we count on.”

It couldn’t have happened on a better day. With light clouds making temperatures almost perfect — and also allowing the first day of September to actually feel like fall — Sunday’s event drew a constant stream of people wanting more and more chili.

It wasn’t hard to tell which were the most popular.

Sweetwater Grill Executive Chef Fawn Racoma spent most of Sunday filling up little tasters.

Rarely did her booth go without a line. Last year, Racoma won the People’s Choice award and the top green chili award.

“I just cook,” Racoma said. “What comes out is this. I cook as I go. I add as I need.”

Simple enough.

But the key to Racoma’s green is in the ingredients. She admits that she loves Colorado chilies but said for her chili, the base is tomatillas.

“It gives it a nice vibrant color,” she said.

Across from Racoma was another fixture in team Cannonbolt.

Sam Bolton, from Broomfield, and Mark Cannon, from Arvada, have been coming to the event for years. The first year they were tasters. Now they wouldn’t miss the chance to compete.

“About five or six years ago we came to it and tasted,” Bolton said. “We said let’s try that. I thought I could make a better firehouse and he thought he could make a better green.”

Now the two have it circled on the calendar, making the trek with gallons and gallons of chili each September.

“Oh we’ll be here every year,” Bolton said. “We will be back without failure.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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