About 70 judges taste the entries and vote to choose a winner based on flavor, meat texture, consistency, spice blend, aroma and color.
"The caliber of chili is very high," LeFew said.
The public can also taste chili during the People's Choice Competition. Every attendee who buys three tickets receives several Mardi Gras beads to give a favorite chef. The chef who gets the most beads wins the People's Choice Award.
Charleston law firms also compete with each other every year for a plaque and bragging rights, Carnochan said.
Competitors in booths often compose skits or songs to perform for passers-by, Carnochan said. For example, one law firm had a country-themed booth last year. Other creative entries have included a booth decked out as a pirate ship and one decorated like a firehouse, LeFew said.
Other events include a frozen T-shirt contest where participants race to unfurl and put on a frozen shirt fastest.
The hot pepper competition appeals to a bolder crowd. According to Carnochan, that event generally draws only about 10 participants. Participants must devour a bowl of hot peppers fastest to win the trophy.
Event proceeds go to benefit HospiceCare, a Charleston nonprofit that provides support and comfort for terminal patients and their families.
"There are not many events where you get to eat world-class chili and raise money for such a great charity," LeFew said. "It's a feel-good situation all around."
The festivities kick off at 11 a.m., when the public can begin sampling chili. Booths will be situated on Kanawha Boulevard near the Capitol Complex. For a full schedule, visit www.smokeonthewaterwv.com.
Reach Laura Reston at laura.res...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5112.