By Nicole Underwood / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(San Manuel, AZ) Calling all chili lovers! The small yet mighty town of San Manuel, Arizona is fanning their flames with their first-ever Chili Cook-Off event, taking place this Saturday, April 23 at the San Manuel Airport. All day from 10am to 6pm, attendees can enjoy an array of rock, country and bluegrass bands, live DJ sets, flavorful food trucks for those craving BBQ or Mexican cuisine, artisan vendors, family-friendly games, raffles and of course - delicious chili tasting.
With categories ranging from red, verde and home-style chili, this free community event will give everyone’s taste buds a chance to choose from an array of chili options, with dozens of chefs competing for the best batch. Every combination of chili options are fair game - meat lovers can enjoy beef or pork-forward batches, while veggie chili-heads craving a spicy-forward take to their slow-simmered bowl can eat to their heart's content.
All chili profiles will be fair game. Who will win the chili competition will be up to the judges, with awards given by local chili-tasting lovers submitting their votes and a coveted people’s choice award offered for the crowd’s favorite. If hungry patrons need more food to fill their carb-craving bellies, a pie-eating contest will also be taking place later in the afternoon.
This first-ever event is one of many activities hosted by the San Manuel Revitalization Coalition, who offer ways for the community to come together through food and festivities. Established in 2020, the San Manuel Revitalization Coalition was formed by 200 residents uniting in partnership with Pinal County, the Mammoth-San Manuel School District, Local First Arizona, and Copper Town Association. Together, they created a community development corporation to better serve the existing residents. By developing and implementing local programs and events, they aim to provide more economic and community development, thus encouraging more sustainable growth in the area.
Flavorful events like the inaugural Chili Cook Off help place towns like San Manuel on the map. Located on the edge of the Sonoran Desert, just 45 minutes outside of Tucson, San Manuel is a small town of under 5,000 people overlooking the San Pedro River Valley. Formerly known as the largest underground copper mine location in the world and established by Del Webb in the early 1950’s, the region includes the scenic Galiuro Mountains and is currently best known for off-road recreation.
Folks can enjoy the vast desert on UTVs and mountain bikes, opt to take guided tours on the Arizona Trail, book a day ziplining, or explore the popular Peppersauce Cave located in the area. San Manuel is also home to the Biosphere 2, a University of Arizona research facility studying ecosystems and space colonization technology (even including a rainforest).
In addition to the Chili Cook Off, other events San Manuel offers are fun activities worth attending, such as the annual San Manuel Copper Classic, an off-road motorcycle race hosted by The Trail Riders of Southern Arizona every March, and the car-and-food extravaganza named Copper Town Days, which takes place in mid-October.
This month, grab a lawn chair and get to know this growing community by heading over to San Manuel’s first-ever chili event. Find out more information at the Chili Cook Off event page.