By MATT CRANE
For the second consecutive weekend, downtown will be flooded with residents and visitors as the Junior Auxiliary of Starkville hosts its first Chilifest from 5-8 p.m. Friday on Main Street.
The event will be held between Lampkin and Jackson streets, and tickets for the chili tasting are $5. The JA has gathered approximately 10 teams for the event.
JA member and event chairman Mamie Kosko said the inspiration for Chilifest came from a similar event in another state.
“I went to a Chilifest in Texas and I thought it was a fantastic event. I thought Starkville could do really well having one of these,” she said. “As a member of JA, I thought it would be a great project for us to host to raise money for the children of Oktibbeha County.”
Kosko said Main Street will close at 4 p.m. Friday with the event beginning after the Mississippi State University Homecoming parade is held.
“The weather will be perfect, and we thought it would be a great event, especially for homecoming weekend. (It is) a fun, family event that (will) bring the city, campus, out-of-town visitors and Bulldog fans together,” she said. “We’ll have the chili tasting and a children’s village with inflatables along with face painting and other fun activities. Live music will be provided by Bill Davis, Callie North and Honey Boy and the Boots.”
Kosko said chili teams consist of restaurants, business, individuals and community clubs with the winner receiving a trophy for first place and the official Chilifest apron.
“There’s no rule as to what can be put into your chili,” she said. “We do ask, however, that if something has a high allergy rate — like shellfish, nuts or anything like that — a sign will be posted letting the public know what’s in it.”
Fifth-year JA member Donna Rupp said proceeds from the event will go toward the multiple projects the organization oversees benefitting the children of Oktibbeha County, including Safety Town and the new playground at Sudduth Elementary School.
“There are various things that we do throughout the year, and we try to reach children from kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade,” she said. “We donate a lot of money to the schools for various projects and needs.”
JA member Foley Holditch said she enjoys getting out into the public and meeting a wide variety of people through the organization.
“I’ve gotten to meet so many people in the community because of JA,” she said. “It’s been a great experience meeting some of the students and being able to give back to the community. It’s very gratifying.”
Kosko said she is hopeful Friday’s event will be successful and garner enough support to become yearly tradition.
“I think it’s going to be fun for people of all ages because we’ve got something for everyone to enjoy, so I’m very excited about that,” she said. “We’re hoping this will become an annual event.”
The Starkville JA’s Chilifest begins at 5 p.m. on Main Street between Lampkin and Jackson streets.