City gears up for chili fest, car show
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Web Dateline:CHARLESTON, W.Va. --
Links in text: charlestonwvcarshow.com chilicookoff.com ucwv.edu/alumni/events/
@by:By Jim Balow
@bod:Charleston commuters may already have noticed barricades closing off Kanawha Boulevard Wednesday evening, preparing for an invasion of more than 1,000 classic and custom cars.
But there's more to do this weekend. If you get tired of admiring the machinery at the annual Rod Run & Doo Wop car show, follow your nose to Magic Island to sample the wares at the 2012 World's Championship Chili Cookoff.
Or if your blood runs maroon and gold, there's plenty to do at the University of Charleston's 125th anniversary Homecoming celebration Friday night and Saturday.
Representatives from all three events joined Mayor Danny Jones and his assistant, Rod Blackstone, at a news conference Wednesday morning at the Court Street overlook.
"This is probably the place to be this weekend," said Jama Jarrett of the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau, a sponsor of the cookoff. "We're expecting 30,000 to 50,000 people in Charleston, which means heads in beds."
The Ramada Charleston Downtown, home hotel for the car show, is totally booked this weekend and other city hotels are nearly full, Jarrett said.
The Rod Run & Doo Wop could draw between 1,050 and 1,100 vehicles this year, a record, organizer Randy Easter said. "We've got about 100 more cars pre-registered this year than last.
"We were voted one of the top 10 East Coast car shows last year for 1,000-car-sized shows by Cruising Times magazine. They'll be here again this year, checking us out."
Cars should start rolling in this morning and will line up along the boulevard. Because of the larger number, a longer section of the boulevard is being closed off this year, Easter said. "It runs completely from Brooks Street to the chili show, with some cars on the CASCI lot and the county courthouse lot."
A full slate of events is scheduled for car owners and visitors throughout the long weekend, with concerts each night at Haddad Riverfront Park and paddleboat cruises on Friday and Saturday.
For a complete schedule, see charlestonwvcarshow.com.
Unlike the car show, the chili cookoff charges admission, said George Manahan, one of the local organizers -- $5 for adults 18 and over, $2.50 for ages 12-18, and free for kids younger than 12.
"We will have over 400 cooks," said Carol Hancock, president of the International Chili Society.
Things get under way Friday with the Last Chance Chili Cookoff, a final opportunity for cooks to qualify for the weekend championships, and sampling of "homestyle" chili -- a new event this year in which cooks can add rice, beans or other nontraditional items to their pots.
The cookoff goes into high gear at noon Saturday with children's activities, concerts and a Miss Chili Pepper Contest (12:45 p.m.) -- not to mention cooking, tasting and judging of two chili varieties: verde and salsa.
More of the same follows on Sunday, again starting at noon. This time red chili and a Mr. Hot Sauce Contest (1:30 p.m.) take center stage.
See chilicookoff.com for information.
Across the river, the University of Charleston is staging its own celebration. Friday evening features a cookout on the riverbank (4-8 p.m., $7) followed by a bonfire, while Saturday centers on the 2 p.m. football game at UC Stadium, preceded by tailgating with free food.
See ucwv.edu/alumni/events/ for a complete schedule.
All the activities inevitably lead to some street closings. The boulevard will remain closed from Brooks Street to Ohio Avenue through Sunday afternoon and evening, except one westbound lane will remain open from Brooks to Capitol Street. Most side streets near the boulevard will be open to local traffic only.
Other closings and changes include:
Leon Sullivan Way unit block -- two-way traffic to allow drop-off and pickup of students at nearby schools.
South Side Bridge -- The right southbound lane and sidewalk will close at 10 a.m. Saturday in preparation for the fireworks. The entire bridge will close at 5 p.m. and reopen following post-fireworks safety checks.
MacCorkle Avenue, Porter Road to Corridor G -- will close at 6 p.m. Saturday, except for eastbound traffic from Corridor G to Loudon Heights or Bridge Road until 9 p.m., for the fireworks.
Loudon Heights Road, South Side Bridge to Grosscup Road -- will close 9 p.m. Saturday for the fireworks.
Jones said he learned the concept of piggybacking existing events, and gaining synergy, from FestivALL Director Larry Groce.
"When you're mayor, you have the power to do things. This is one of them," Jones said. "Little did people know when they elected me that they were putting a hot-rodder in office."
Reach Jim Balow at email@example.com or 304-348-5102.