CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thousands of chili aficionados are expected to gather on Kanawha Boulevard to brew tasty chili concoctions and wander among tents Saturday at the 15th annual Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-Off.
Event organizers expect about 4,000 attendees and more than 70 chefs to participate -- a dramatic increase from previous years.
According to Darlene Smoke on the Water Chairwoman Carnochan 1,000 people usually attend Smoke on the Water and about 30 chefs register early.
Carnochan attributes the growth to the West Virginia Sesquicentennial celebration concluding Saturday on the Capitol grounds.
Although the number of participants has grown over the last few years, organizers agreed the event consistently attracts the same eclectic crowd.
Participants range from judges to lawyers to plumbers to firefighters to previous World Championship Chili Cook-Off winners, said Susan LeFew, a member of the Smoke on the Water planning committee.
"Chili cooks are a friendly bunch," LeFew said. "They love to have folks come up and ask them about their chili and where they come from."
According to LeFew, many competitors will come from outside West Virginia. Some participants come back to Charleston year after year while traveling the chili championship circuit.
"Many of these cooks have known each other for 10 or 15 years," LeFew said. "They're like a family."
Chefs must be members of the International Chili Society and must prepare chili that adheres to strict ICS guidelines. The ICS differentiates four categories of chili: red, green, salsa and home-style.