The 23rd Annual Morton’s Firehouse Chili Cook-Off drew hundreds of people and fire departments from Bradenton to Venice.
Also present? Swamp chili, celebrity judge and former NFL player David Baas, and firefighters dressed up as sea creatures.
The fire departments let their creativity shine through with unique booth designs lining Osprey Avenue. Live music played in the background of a warm, but breezy afternoon.
Longboat Key Fire Rescue operated “White Glove Chili,” in which guests were treated to a more upscale experience for chili sampling. Firefighter paramedics donned tuxedo vests, bowties and white gloves while samplers walked the red carpet for a taste.
Sarasota County Fire Station 1 attracted people with their “Hole in 1 Chili,” complete with a putt-putt green on the side.
Further down the row, Sarasota County Fire Station 5C passed out “Swamp Chili” with a not-so-secret ingredient: real gator meat.
Although its booth design wasn’t as extravagant, North Port Fire Rescue boasted its chili won People’s Choice two years in a row.
Even though this reporter usually favors Longboat Key, North Port was on the top of his list.
Guests could pay $10 to receive a sampling ticket, entitling them to one sample at each booth. At the end, people with a ticket could vote for People’s Choice.
Proceeds from the event benefited the Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Fund. The locally operated organization assists firefighters and families in difficult times, and provides training opportunities.
In the end, North Port Fire Rescue lived up to its claims that the department would go for the hat trick.
North Port Fire Rescue made a clean sweep of the awards, taking People’s Choice and the judge’s first place.
In second was Sarasota County Fire Station 1 and third was Sarasota County Fire Station 5C. Best booth was Sarasota County Fire Station 12 with the “Under the Sea” theme.