The sweet aroma of BBQ and chili will soon be in the air at Gator Harley-Davidson in Leesburg.
That’s because on Friday, Jan. 24 and Saturday, Jan. 25, teams from across the Sunshine State will compete in the 7th Chili Cookoff and BBQ Competition sponsored by the Lake County Firefighters Charity. The event will be held Friday from 4-9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at the dealership, located at 1745 U.S. Hwy. 441.
More than two dozen teams will compete for more than $5,000 in prizes and the title of best chili and BBQ. Those attending the event will be able to sample and judge the tasty items for $10, as well as enjoy a full bar, food truck, vendors, fire trucks, a kids’ play area and live music by Hypersona on Friday from 5-9 p.m. and Bobby Friss on Saturday from 2:30-6 p.m.
The Lake County Firefighters Charity started the fundraiser in 2012 and it has since grown into one of Central Florida’s premier two-day food events. All proceeds raised will help local firefighters battling major medical issues such as cancer and PTSD.
Chef Joel Padilla (Platinum Chef) and Chef John Bell (culinary instructor) of Leesburg High School will kick off Friday night with a special youth competition. Local culinary students will be preparing a tasty creation for visitors to sample and vote on.
Saturday morning starts off with a special needs cooking contest sponsored by Papa Pineapples in Leesburg. The special needs youth teams will be creating tacos from ingredients provided by the new downtown Leesburg restaurant. Youth contestants will then create a burger, with the best chef winning a grant toward continuing his or her culinary education. The winner’s burger will be featured on the menu at Mojo’s Grill in Leesburg.
The fun will crank up Saturday when Pete and the Invisible brings its brand of rock and roll onto the stage from 10:45 a.m.-1:45 p.m. The chili cookoff officially starts at noon, followed by the BBQ tasting at 2 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early for the best sampling.
Celebrity judges will include Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, Samara Cokinos from News Channel 6 and Padilla. To purchase advance tickets and for more information, visit www.lakefirefightercharity.org.