History of ICS

The Past, The Present, The Future of ICS

In looking back at a history in the making, there are so many people to thank that it would be impossible to name everyone...

A special thanks to all our sponsors who have made it possible for the International Chili Society to exist. Hunt Wesson, Inc. and McIlhenney Company (the makers of Tabasco) have been sponsors for over twenty years and we are indebted to their loyalty and continuing sponsorship.

Our additional thanks go the the newest sponsors who came "on-board" for the Las Vegas 32nd World's Championship Chili Cookoff: Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority, Fremont Street Experience, Mission Industries, EAT'M (Emerging Artists & Talent in Music), A-1 Audio and Lighting, Potlatch Industries, and Shelby American.

One person, Carroll Shelby, must be named for his vision, charitable conscience, and most important his love of having a good time. That’s why the first World’s Championship was held in Terlingua, Texas. Thanks Shel. Who would have thought that all that heartburn would be so much fun!

1967-1976      1977-1986
1987-1996      1997-Present

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ICS History: 1967 -1976

1967     Some of the pioneers who started or attended the first World's Championship were: Carroll Shelby, Tom Tierney, H. Allen Smith, Wick Fowler, Dave Witts, Bill Neale, Frank X. Tolbert, Father Duffy, Ormly Gumfudgin, and Bill Doner to name a few. It was a shoot-out between Wick Fowler and H. Allen Smith. There were three judges; Hallie Stilwell, Floyd Schneider and Dave Witts. Hallie voted for H. Allen, Floyd voted for Wick. Dave Witts, the self- proclaimed mayor of Terlingua and third judge, spat out both samples and declared his taste buds were ruined! He called it a draw and declared a moratorium for one year.

1968      They had so much fun at the first one, it was decided to have another! (Besides, Shelby and Witts hadn't sold those rocks they called the Terlingua ranch) H. Allen was ill due to what he called an allergy flare-up (some said he'd eaten some of his own chili). Woodruff "Wino Woody" DeSilva, former manager of Los Angeles International Airport, took his place and fired up his pot against Wick Fowler in the second World's Championship. Scott Carpenter (astronaut) served as head judge. Someone had stuffed the ballot box for H. Allen and Carpenter called for a re-vote. The ballots were cast, and before the box was opened, a masked bandit brandishing a rifle, grabbed the ballot box and threw it down a mine shaft. Dave Witts (still the mayor of Terlingua) declared nolo contendere until the following year.

1969      History will show that this was a very important year for the World's Championship Chili Cookoffs. C.V. Wood, Jr., the man who built Disneyland for Walt Disney, brought the London Bridge to Lake Havasu, an ex-Texan from Amarillo, then living in Beverly Hills, threw his pot in the competition. Wick Fowler, representing Texas, and Joe DeFrates, the Illinois champion, were soundly defeated by the man who would call himself the "UndeFeeted UndeniaBull World's Champion". C.V. Wood, Jr. known as "Woody" captured the World's Championship with the flair of Cecil B. DeMille. Woody started what is now known at all chili cookoffs, as "showmanship". He had a large rooting section, t-shirts with his name on them, a monstrous spice chest, a couple of Hollywood starlets as assistants and an electronic chili gauge. This device had knobs for altitude, temperature and humidity. When the two probes were placed in Woody's chili it registered "EXCELLENT," setting off a siren. We had our first winner! But more important, a team that would play an important role in the future of Chili Cookoffs...... Carroll Shelby and C.V. Wood, Jr.

1970      A statement of purpose, articles and by-laws was distributed for the new "INTERNATIONAL CHILI SOCIETY" (ICS) which sanctioned the 1970 cookoff in the absence of any official word from the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI).
     Up to this point the competitors at the World's Championship were "Men Only!" The "Chiligettes" were advocating women's rights to compete. Mumbles and grumbles were heard from the organizers such as ...."Shoot, they'll screw this up, too"...."Why don't they just stay home where they belong"..."Ya'll never see my wife here"..."We ain't got any rights no more". It was bound to happen and it did--as Janice Constantine of Midland, Texas, set up her cooking area with her own silver service and candelabra accompanied by a male violinist in a tuxedo.
     Wick Fowler was declared "World's Champion" with Chief Fulton Battice second and the Illinois Champion, Joe DeFrates, third.

1971      ICS Historian Ormly Gumfudgin fired up his pot in honor of the great state of California with his assistant, astronaut Scott Carpenter. Joe DeFrates, Wick Fowler, C.V. Wood, Jr., Shelby and a few of the other self- proclaimed chili experts commented..."Have you tasted Ormly's Chinese Stew?"... Father Duffy started the rumor Orm had pot in his pot and tasters came by the dozens and ate it all before the judging. Some of the contestants were George Wright (New York); Joe DeFrates (Illinois): Joyce Newlin (Texas); Wick Fowler (Texas) and C.V. Wood, Jr. (Beverly Hills by way of Texas). Actress Ruta Lee announced that "WOODY" had won his second World Title.

1972      This was the Sixth Annual and now the World's Championship had become a tradition. Woody announced that he was retiring as the "UndeFeeted UndeniaBull World's Champion." Frank Tolbert announced the reissue of his updated book "A Bowl Of Red." Candy Barr of Midland, Texas showed up promoting her book of poetry, "Gentle Mind Confused." It was hard for Shelby to keep his mind on the book but he bought two of them anyway--just so he could have Candy autograph them. Shelby also announced that his "Original Texas Brand Chili Mix" was on the market.
     We lost a true pioneer in the world of chili as WICK FOWLER had passed on. The 1972 World's Championship was dedicated in his honor. The winners were: Howard Winsor, of Colorado crowned as World's Champion; Second: Dub Rhodes, Ohio; Third: Dick Slocumb, Texas.

1973      Dr. Roy Nakayama, Dean of Horticulture from New Mexico State University at Las Cruces, verified that early chili peppers had their effect on all subsequent life forms. Joe DeFrates, the Illinois Champ won his first World's Championship after five years of competing. Second place went to Dub Rhodes of Abilene, Texas and third to Aubrey Cox of Wichita Falls, Texas.

1974      The first legitimate California State Championship was held on Thursday night before the Memorial weekend in 1974. It was a success and would have a definite impact on the International Chili Society. A team headed by Bill Ray, owner of the BBC; Jon Clark, BBC VP; Jim West, Entertainment Director and Program Director of the State Cookoff; along with Tom Deemer, Bill Davis, Dick Rogers, Donnie Ward, Cal Schmidt, Father Duffy, and California State Champion Al Dunlap were headed for Marfa, Texas and then on to Terlingua.
     This was to be the last year the World's Championship was held in Terlingua. Allegani Jani Schofield, with her Hot Pants Chili, became the first female World's Champion. Carroll Shelby, C.V. Wood, Jr. and Frank Tolbert were the key individuals in organizing the International Chili Society World's Championship Chili Cookoff. Frank resigned from the Board after the cookoff and suggested that Shelby and Wood hold it in California.

1975      Just 90 miles from Los Angeles in the town of Rosamond, Tropico Goldmine was chosen as the site for the World's Championship Chili Cookoff. Planning began on the Ninth Annual World's Championship under the direction of C.V. Wood, Jr. and Carroll Shelby. It was decided that the Cookoff would benefit Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.
     This was a star-studded Cookoff with celebrities such as Ernie Borgnine, Robert Mitchum, William Conrad, Peter Marshall, Dale Robertson, John Derek, Vicky Lawrence, Joey Bishop, and Chill Wills who would become the official ICS and World's Championship MC until his death in 1978. Joe DeFrates joined C.V. Wood, Jr. as the only two- time World's Champion. Second place went to Myles "Pig Pen" Grossman of Nevada and Third to the Girl Scout Troop of Odessa, Texas. Woodruff "Wino Woody" DeSilva joined H. Allen Smith and Wick Fowler in chili heaven just before the Ninth Annual.

1976      It was decided by Woody and Shelby that the International Chili Society and World's Championship needed full-time management. Jim West was hired as Executive Director and offices were established at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, California. More celebrities were added to the World's Championship. Those in attendance were: Joey Bishop, Michael Dante, Jane Withers, John Casavettes, Harvey Korman, Peter Brown, Ross Martin, Peter Hurkos and Chill Wills. Entertainment and celebrities were becoming a trademark of the World's Championship with the popular Miss Chili Pepper, Shoot N' Hollar, Mr Hot Sauce, and beer drinking contests. We lost H. Allen Smith, Chef Mike Roy and Hondo Crouch to the big cookoff in the sky. Rudy Valdez, a full-blooded Ute Indian from Palmdale, California, representing the Indian Nations, won the World's Championship. This was the first year that, besides a trophy, prizes were awarded to the winner. Rudy won a year's lease on a new Datsun Pickup, a pair of Larry Mahan cowboy boots and a Rival crockpot. Second place went to our first foreign winner, Jack Barber, representing England. Third place was Donna Williams of Arizona and fourth went to Myrt Davis of Rosamond, representing Tropico Goldmine.

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ICS History: 1977-1986

1977      Over 20,000 attended the 11th Annual World's Championship Cookoff at Tropico Goldmine. Jay Pennington, the Nevada Champion, won top honors with second place going to George Burgos of Arizona , third place to Don Goff of Illinois and fourth to Hal Beehan, winner of the Lower Colorado Regional. Hollywood celebrities were becoming a big a part of the World's Championship. Chiliheads from around the world rubbed elbows with Jack Carter, Alan Hale, Richard Anderson, John Amos, Leslie Uggams, Peter Marshall, Dick Haynes, Claude Akins, Sam Yorty (Mayor of L.A.), Tommy Lasorda, Chill Wills, Art Fleming, Andy Granatelli, LaVar Burton, Ernie Borgnine, Joanne Dru, Ralph Story, Kelly Lange, William Conrad, Carroll Shelby, Bobby Unser, Mel Pell and Evelle Younger. Chief umpire and scorekeeper was Emmett Ashford, the great baseball umpire.

1978      This was an instrumental year for the Society and chili cooks world wide. Cash prize awards for chili winners was established with $15,000 going to Laverne "Nevada Annie" Harris, the 1978 World's Champion. Annie was the Nevada Champion, making it two in a row for the Nevada State Championship Chili Cookoff held every year at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, Nevada. Second place and a check for $5,000 went to Erv Welk (yes, related to Lawrence) from North Dakota; third and $2,500 to Dennis Wiseman of West Virginia. In February of 1978 the International Chili Society offered formal memberships that included a newsletter with news of cookoff winners and upcoming cookoffs. The American Spice Trade Association created a special award for the cook using the most spices in their recipe. It was won by Max Vallejo, representing Oregon. The accounting firm of Harris, Kerr & Foster acted as chief scorekeeper verifying all votes and winners. In December we lost Chill Wills, one of our most lovable characters in Chilidom.

1979      A capacity crowd converged on Tropico as hot air balloons went up and the Condor Squadron bombed the outhouse, while sky divers drifted down to the aroma of championship chili. KLAC celebrity disc jockey Dick Haynes helped Jim House and Tommy Farrell on stage. Other celebrities such as Jim and Chris Mitchum, Jack Kelly and Billy Barty entertained the crowd. Joe and Shirley Stewart, the Sierra Nevada Regional winners, took home the first-place trophy and a check for $15,000 as the 1979 World's Champions. Second and a check for $7,500 went to Rudy Valdez, the 1976 World's Champion. Bill Casper of Missouri was third and $2,500 richer, edging out Jim McCullick, the California State Champion, who received $1,000 for fourth place, "Chili" Bill Swanson, of Wisconsin, took home fifth and a check for $500.

1980       Paramount Movie Ranch replaced Tropico Goldmine as the site for the 14th Annual World's Championship Chili Cookoff. Peter Marshall and Joe Landis filmed a special on the World's Championship and there were more "stars" at Paramount than there were in the sky. Robert Mitchum, Ernest Borgnine, Joanne Dru, Peter Marshall, Artie Johnson, Dennis James, Jack Kelly, Tom Poston, Rory Calhoun, Mike Connors, Slim Pickens, Earl Holliman, George Gobel, Billy Barty, and Chuck Conners were all in the special. Bill Pfeiffer, the Washington D.C. winner, won $20,000 with his "Capital Punishment" chili. John Hundley was second, Randy Davis third, Ray Walker fourth, and LeRoy Johnson was fifth.

1981      Famous Hollywood Park race track was the site for the 15th Annual World's Championship on November 1, 1981. Over 60 contestants representing Regions, States and Foreign Countries such as England, Scandinavia, Canada, Mexico and Australia fired up their pots for the $20,000 check for the World's best chili cook. Fred Drexel, the California State champion, with his "Butterfield Stageline" chili went to the winners' circle as World's best chili cook and a check for $20,000. Susan Airhart from Houston, Texas was second, New Mexico's Rick Owens was third, Harry Coleman fourth and 1979 World's Champions, Joe & Shirley Stewart, took fifth place honors. Robert Petersen and Tom Deemer were elected to the ICS Board of Governors.

1982      From Hollywood Park, we moved to Universal Studios in beautiful Burbank, California. People come from around the world to tour Universal Studios in hopes to see famous celebrities. The World's Championship Chili Cookoff was the place to be to see the "stars." Ernie Borgnine, Wilt Chamberlain, John "Bozer" Bowman, William Conrad, Joanne Dru, Peter Marshall, Helen O'Connell, Rory Calhoun, Dan Haggerty, Jim Mitchum, Dennis James, Arte Johnson, Alex Trebeck, Leslie Uggams, Jackie Olden and Tom Poston were our celebrities in attendance. Bill Pfeiffer, the 1980 World's Champion, made chili history by joining C.V. Wood, Jr. and Joe DeFrates as another two-time World's Champion. Bill took home a check in the amount of $25,000, raising his total winnings from the World's Championships to $40,000.

1983      There's no place like home so we went back to "Tropico Goldmine." Seventy-four contestants from around the world, including Australia, England, Canada, and Guam, fired-up their Coleman stoves for a piece of the $35,000 in total prize money and awards. It was great to be back at Tropico and the people were glad to have us back; for over 20,000 spectators crowded into the cooking area to get a glimpse of one of the celebrities and a taste of the best chili in the world. Harold Timber, the Glacial Lakes Regional Champion, placed his name in the record book and took home the $25,000 first-place check as the 1983 World's Champion. Fred Drexel, the 1980 champion was second; Fred Wieland, the Shriners Regional Champ, took third place, fourth went to the Sierra Nevada Champ Darrel Beller and fifth was Santos Menchaca, the Nevada State Champion.

1984      A bill was introduced in the Texas legislature to designate chili as the official state dish. It succeeded. Chili may have started in Texas but it's America's food and on February 2, 1984, Manuel J. Lujan, Jr., Congressman (R-NM) introduced a bill "House Joint Resolution 465." It was a Joint Resolution to provide for the designation of Chili as the Official Food of the United States of America. Dusty Hudspeth, the Texas State Champion from Irving, Texas, bought her family a new house with the $25,000 prize money she won as the 1984 World Champion. Allison Taylor, the Sierra Nevada Regional Champion, was second; Steve Wolf, the Nevada State champ, was third; Irene Menchaca, California State Champion, fourth; and Carol Hancock, Tropico/Antelope Valley Regional Champ, took fifth place. Four women were in the top five and you guys were saying "women can't cook chili". Celebrities included Ernie Borgnine who has become a "regular" and a favorite of the fans at the World's Championships. Ernie was joined by celebrity judges Wilt Chamberlin, David Doyle, Iron Eyes Cody, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Herd, Bill Conrad, Peter Marshall, Joanne Dru, and Skip Young.

1985      Sixty-three judges tasted for one hour and fifteen minutes before declaring Carol Hancock, the High Sierra Regional Champ as World Champion. Ernie Borgnine presented Carol, her husband Dave and son Greg, a check for $25,000. They named their chili "Shotgun Willie Chili" after singer Willie Nelson who is a friend of the Hancock's. They became the second High Sierra Champ to win the World's Championship, joining Joe and Shirley Stewart, the 1979 champions. Fred Wieland, the Baja Champion was second; Skip Cooley, Oregon Champion, third; Virginia Champion Jeff Spinks was fourth and Doug Wilkey, Idaho State Champion, was fifth. The celebrity list included one of baseball's all time personalities, Billy Martin. The crowd loved Billy and other celeb's like Ernie Borgnine, William Conrad, Hugh O'Brian, Jack Kelly, Joanne Dru, Richard Herd, Chris Mitchum, Andy Granatelli, and Iron Eyes Cody.

1986      A tradition was started at the 20th Annual World's Championship as ICS Governors Tom Deemer and Bill Ray led the crowd in "God Bless America" to officially start the cookoff. Sherre Mesker has continued that tradition at all World's Championships as well as many local cookoffs. Jim Beaty, the Oregon champion, took home the $25,000 check and title of World's Champion by defeating 78 other State and Regional champions from around the world. The ICS has become truly International with champions from Tahiti, Australia, Canada, England, Cayman Islands, Mexico and the Gulf of Sidra. Sergei Kowalchik won on board the aircraft carrier Coral Reef, while they were in the Gulf, notifying Colonel Khadafy his recipe needed a little napalm. Jerry Simmons, the Iowa champion (from St. Louis) took runner-up honors with the Gulf of Sidra champion, Sergei Kowalchik, third; Erskine Bufano, the Utah champ, was fourth and Larry Koch, the Green Country Regional Champion, winning fifth in a taste-off over the 1985 World Champion Carol Hancock. The "stars" were out at Tropico Goldmine and the 20,000 chiliheads attending enjoyed seeing the star of the hit day-time drama of "The Young and the Restless" Jeanne Cooper; "L.A. Law's," Corbin Bernsen, Martha Smith, Terry Lester, Kevin Dobson, Linda Gray, Barry Corbin, Yankee great Billy Martin, Chris Mitchum, Hugh O'Brian, Skip Young, Mitch Brown, Michael Gogin and our number one celebrity chilihead Ernie Borgnine.

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ICS History: 1987-1996

1987      George Horn, of the national accounting firm Pannell, Kerr, Forster, certified the votes of the judges and announced that Margo Knudson, the High Sierra Champion, had won the 21st Annual World's Championship Chili Cookoff. Margo is the fifth woman to win the World's Championship and the third High Sierra champion to capture the title of World's Champion Chili Cook. She also took home a check for $25,000. Richard Rutherford, the Colorado State Champion was second; third went to Bob Grayson, the Oregon Champ; Jean Simmons, the Tennessee Champion, was fourth and the Nevada State champ, Leon Thompson, was fifth. Carroll Shelby had termed the World's Championship Chili Cookoff as an "Adult Woodstock" and this year's cookoff certainly verified the tag. Al "Red Dawg" Weber and his "Custer's Last Band" had the crowd dancin' all day in between the Miss Chili Pepper, Mr Hot Sauce, Shoot n' Hollar and beer drinking contests. 
     Lt. Commander Don Lewis, US Navy, from Point Mugu, was introduced at 11:55 a.m. He asked the crowd to look skyward as two F-18 jets piloted by Cmdr. Rick Fessenden and Lt. Cmdr. Rick Moore, passed over the cookoff in close formation. They made a couple of other passes and then kicked in the afterburners as Sherre Mesker sang "God Bless America." The Edwards Air Force Base Color Guard presented arms and the 21st World's Championship Chili Cookoff was officially started. There wasn't a dry eye at the Goldmine as the 81 contestants fired up their pots.
     The Condor Squadron kept another tradition alive by bombing the "Officer's Club" (outhouse) that was constructed on top of the mountain behind the Goldmine. They did a great air show in their vintage planes.
     A stellar list of celeb's were on hand to judge and entertain; such as Jeanne Cooper, Corbin Bernsen, Barry Corbin, Ernie Borgnine, Fred Willard, Trica Cast, Matthew Lawrence, Hugh O'Brien, Jackie Olden, Skip Young, Joe Cannon, Jess Walton, Barry Jenner, Kate Linder, Paul Wallach, Bill Conrad, Joanne Dru, and Collin Bernsen.

1988      Actor Lee Horsley presented a check for $25,000 to Linda & Kenton Stafford, the Lower Colorado Regional Champions. The accounting firm of Pannell, Kerr and Forster said it was one of the closest World's Championships ever judged. George Swick, the Baja Regional Champ, was second and Jerry Simmons, the Mile High Regional Champ, was third. Tied for fourth and fifth was Jim Beaty the 1986 World's Champion and Ellen Lilja, the Idaho State Champion. Jim Beaty won the taste-off. ICS sponsor Pepto Bismol created the "Titanic Bowl of Red" with the Tulsa JC's. They drove the 1,000 gallon chili pot from Tulsa and sold chili for charity at the World's Championship. The Honorable chilihead, Calvin Schmidt, Municipal Court Judge, and his assistant, ICS's own Father Duffy (non-commissioned), but an honorable man of question,(or vice versa) performed the first marriage ever held at the World's Championship. Hope and Monty Spuregon exchanged vows on the Main Stage in front of 20,000 people and national television. We lost two great chiliheads when Bill Ruff and Dr. Roy Nakayama joined Wick Fowler, H. Allen, Wino Woody and others in that great cookoff in the sky.

1989      The space shuttle was scheduled to land at Edwards Air Force base on Monday following the World's Championship. Some of the 20,000 spectators wondered if the astronauts could see the smoke from the 82 contestants at Tropico Goldmine, about 20 miles from Edwards where they were scheduled to land. "Tarantula Jack" (Phil Walter) won the World's Championship and the $25,000 first-place check. The Kentucky Champion, John Knight was second; third was Norm Gaul; 4th went to Paul Ash, the Baja Champion and Doug Wilkey, the Arizona Champ was 5th.
     Johnny Lee was a special guest performer and headlining the celebrity list was Jeanne Cooper, Helen Bodner, Laura Bryan Birn, Rory Calhoun, Barry Corbin, Don Dolan, Steve Easton, Dana House, John Laughlin, Kate Linder, Cary and Chris Mitchum, Hugh O'Brian, Jerry Prell, Marguerite Ray, Quinn Rediker, Joanne Dru, and Cory Young.
     Dawn dishwashing soap, the official grease cutter of the International Chili Society, staged the World's Championship Dishwashing Contest. There was a $15,000 Dream Kitchen as first prize and the competition was fierce. The final two contestants were Sheila Sowell of Abilene, Texas and Dwayne Page of Colorado Springs. Dwayne had the lead going into the last few dishes but slipped and Sheila won by a matter of seconds.

1990      Carroll Shelby wasn't feeling too good but he stayed until David Valega was announced as the new World's Champion. The Arizona State Champs, Rocky & Mary Renfrow, were second; Cathy Wilkey, the North West Regional Champ, was third; Steve Porter, the Wyoming Champ, fourth; and Tom Williams, the Mile High Regional Champ, was fifth. Chili competition has now become as competitive as the Olympics (some say more). Dick Sykes and the Condor Squadron bombed the "Officers Club." Ernie and Tova Borgnine headed this years list of celeb's with Don Dolin, Brad Lockerman, Jim Storm, Jeff Tractra, Michael Fox, Barry Corbin, Stan Campbell, Bobbi Eakes, Lori Calhoun, Rory Calhoun, Mary Cadarette and Joanne Dru. Shelby became a candidate for a heart transplant which he got later in the year. We thank the miracles of medicine and the great doctors that we have in the world today.

1991      Shelby drove the pace car, Chrysler's Viper, at the Indy 500 and he looked so good we were wondering if he was going to pull off the track or stay in the race. No one knew at the time but this would be the last year that the World's Championship Chili Cookoff would be held at Tropico Goldmine. Tropico Goldmine had become as famous as Terlingua to chili fans around the world. Randy Robinson the Kentucky State Champion took first place honors the title of World's Champion and a check for $25,000 back to his home town of Columbus, Ohio. Al Rock, Vintage Regional Champion was second, third Dave Lorenz, Mexico National Champion; fourth Dione Cooley, Western Regional Champion and fifth place went to Jim Beaty, former World's Champion and the Western Regional Champ. We lost Board of Governor W.D. Ray to cancer as he joined other chiliheads in the great cookoff in the sky.

1992      Chili heads around the world mourned the passing of two pioneer's of the International Chili Society Co-Founder C.V. Wood, Jr. and Shirley Bufano. Rawhide in Scottsdale, Arizona hosted the World's Championship and one of America's great Statesman Senator Barry Goldwater was chief judge. Chris Mitchum headed a list of celebrities in team roping that included six time world's champion all-around cowboy Larry Mahan. Carson City physician Dr. Ed Pierczynski the Canadian Champion was crowned World's Champion with second place going to Betty Phillips the Kansas State Champion. Doug Wilkey the Pacific West Regional Champion was third, fourth was defending World's Champion, Randy Robinson.
     Joining all of us in the fun at Rawhide were Robert Mitchum, Ernie Borgnine, Jeanne Cooper and Orville & Gary Redenbacher (of popcorn fame).
     Chili Cookoffs have become major fund raisers around the world as the International Chill Society announced that an estimated fifty million dollars had been raised from sanctioned Cookoffs.

1993      Reno, Nevada the "biggest little city in the world" called and we went. The World's Championship Chili Cookoff became for the first time a two day festival with food vendor, arts & crafts and micro brewery's. McBride & The Ride a hot country western band was booked and chili heads lined Virginia Street in downtown Reno, Nevada. Cathy Wilkey, the Washington State Champion placed her name in history and was $25,000 richer as the 1993 World's Champion. Don Hammes the North Dakota State Champion was second, third place was Laurin Lentz the North Coast Regional Champion, fourth place went to the Kentucky State Champion Ann Hoover. The crowd, and the judges deemed it "the year of the woman. "It was estimated that over 50,000 people attended the World's Championship. The ICS staged a trip across America in a stage coach with the Red Cross as a fund raiser and to make people aware of the bill to make chili America official food. Carroll Shelby's chili pot was tied on top and we left from the steps of the Capital building in Washington D.C. Ormly Gumfudgin rode shot gun with Jim Lotito at the wheel. They arrived in Reno before the start of the World's Championship.

1994      Back in the streets of Reno the World's Championship now ran a mile or so down Virginia Street and we had to expand down 2nd street to have enough room. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils were the featured performers as thousand of chili fans left the slot machines to enjoy the arts & crafts, chili, entertainment and good friends. Good Morning America opened their show from the Main Stage and the party was on. The Alberta Champions, Bill & Karen Ray, 28th World's Champions and winners of $25,000 and the traditional bronze chili pot. Second place was Jerry Simmons the Central States Regional Champion, third was Mary Pierczynski the Canadian Champion and wife of Dr. Ed, past World's Champion. Paul Ash, the Antelope Valley/High Desert Regional Champion was fourth. and Dr. Ed, Mary's husband and past World's Champion came in fifth. Jeanne Cooper was a hit with the crowd as she has been at all the World's Championships. We lost Bill Conrad, a great friend and judge to the big cookoff in the sky.

1995      The World's Championship Chili Cookoff has become a three day festival with over 100 arts & crafts, food vendors, and micro brewery's. Buckwheat Zydeco was the featured performer with his Creole, Zydeco, reggae, rock n' roll blend of music. Barron Hilton was chief judge as the largest number of contestants competed in the history of the ICS. The Semi Finals had been added for winners of Districts Cookoffs around the country and over 200 contestants fired up their stoves in quest of the $25,000 first prize money and title of World's Champion. One hundred and twenty finalists lit their stoves as Lena Shelby in Swedish and Margie Petersen in English announced "Ladies & Gentlemen, light your stoves." Norm & Bobbi Gaul, winners from the Semi Finals totaled the most votes and won the $25,000 and put their name in chili history as the 29th World's Champions. Bob Dyer the Western Champion, was second, Red Brecke from the Semi-Finals was third, Marilee Barrett the Montana Champion was fourth and the Alberta Champion Janis Davidson was fifth. Andy Dishong a pioneer chilihead lost his battle with cancer.

1996      Was this a year, or not......The Reno Hilton provided a backdrop to end all backdrops. The weather was a generous 88 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, with crowds from as far as the Bay Area & Sacramento, not to mention the "locals" who came to see what a "chili cookoff" was all about.
     We had the luxury of having Chef Paul Prudhomme with us all weekend providing us with a great Gourmet Cooking Demonstration Thursday evening, a great Gourmet dinner on Friday, and judging the "final" table on Sunday. Actor Cliff Robertson, Actress & cable TV Hostess, Ruta Lee; world-renowned set designer Jerry Wunderlich, Young & Restless's Jeannie Cooper were all on hand to help us celebrate our 30th Anniversary.
     Congratulations to Georgia Weller from Michigan, who went home $25,000 richer and the new World's Champion Chili Cook. Penny Hansell went home $1,000 richer for becoming the World's Championship Salsa Winner of 1996. Both gals will be back next year to defend their titles.

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ICS History: 1997 - present

1997           North, South, East & West.....cooks descended on Reno and took no prisoners at this year's World's Championship Chili Cookoff. Steve Falkowski, from Hopewell Junction, NY walked away with 1st place, the coveted bronze chili pot and a check for $25,000. His "Gold Miner's Chili" will go down in history as the best bowl of chili for 1997!
     Following in Steve's footsteps were 2nd place Ed Cooley from CA, 3rd place Darol Wetzel from MT, Tom Hoover from Ohio, and rounding out the top five, Kathy LeGear from TX.
     LeAnn Nienow from Gold River, CA walked away with the top prize of $1,000 at the World's Championship Salsa Contest. LeAnn beat out 139 salsa hopeful's with her "Stoney Road Salsa". Jim Watson from Placerville, CA took 2nd place, Barry Steinberg from Canoga Park, CA took 3rd, and the defending champion, Penny Hansell from Tustin, CA took 4th place. It looks as if California cooks did better in Salsa than Chili! Just kidding.
     Joining us this year were Carroll Shelby and his new wife, Cleo, Jeanne Cooper, Caren (Bernsen) Wilson, Corbin Bernsen, Chef Alex Patout and Spicemeister, Dave DeWitt.
     Once again we enjoyed the hospitality and camaraderie from the folks at the Reno Hilton.

1998      The 32nd Annual World’s Championship Chili Cookoff was held in downtown Las Vegas under the canopy of The Fremont Street Experience. A beautiful setting to say the least! There was a Shelby Club Competition of about 150 Shelby Cobras on display along with the Chili Competitions. Actor/Singer David Cassidy sang the National Anthem flowed by the " official start " of the shotgun and then 170 cooks were cooking up their goods!
     Congratulations to Kathy LeGear from Dallas,TX who went home $25,000 richer and the new World's Champion Chili Cook and Bonnie Ford for becoming the World's Championship Salsa Winner of 1998.

1999      Back under the canopy of The Fremont Experience in Las Vegas, the three-day event kicked off Friday at 6am with Jim & Eileen Beaty cooking up a "Bowl of Red" for the TV crew (they took it back to the studios after the press release!) and then the fun began! Nine events in three days! WHEW! But that is what everyone comes out for----THE FUN! On Sunday, Zach Taylor made some announcements, the National Anthem was sung and, as tradition goes, the "shot heard ‘round the chili world" was fired by Doug Dishong with Jeep’s shotgun. Jeep Gereghty, another pioneer chilihead and official starter, lost his battle with cancer this year.
     Maud Swick of Bakersfield, CA captured the overall win in 1999 with her Zanjero Red Chili, representing Sespe Creek Regional, CA. Joe Barrett of Lake Arrowhead, CA took the inaugural Chili Verdi competition while Pat McCulley was crowned 1999 World’s Salsa Champion. At the end of the day everyone was exhausted but satisfied with another "world" gone by!

2000     34th Annual World's Chili Championship Cookoff

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