A little smaller than usual field of chili cooks will liven up St. George Island Saturday, with about 40 teams vying for a chance to earn a ticket to Nationals.

“Our winner last year, Paul Nunn with Nunn Better Chili, came in second at Nationals last year,” said Grayson Shepard, who oversees the completion. “That tells me our judging system works since we picked a good chili.”

So far, seven teams have signed up to enter the newly-added salsa division, which will be judged by a crew from Sometimes It's Hotter on St. George Island. Salsa, like the chili completion, is an International Chili Society category, so the winner of the St. George Island competition also will be eligible to go the ICS Nationals to compete there.

The 41 chili chefs who have so far signed up for Saturday’s regional completion include John Blackwell (Red Tail Chili), Paul and Tim Nunn and Alyssa Jones (Nunn Better), Chuck Stubbs (Blue Water Cooking Company), Bill Avery (Waterdog Chili), Steve Merrill (Blow N' Go), Jim Fulton (Red Hots), Roy Geigle (Cowpokes Chuckwagon Chili), Jim Kemp (Lighthouse Chili), J.G. Carver and Greg Machamer (Team Spice Boys), Larry Underkoffler (LEU's "Q" Crew), Billy Bergfel (Burnin’ at Both Ends), David Thonen (Blow & Go) and Sandy Walker (G.R.I.T.S.).

Also taking part will be Neal Trafford (Firefighters Forever), Chad West (Yellow Creek Swamp Sauce), Dana Kelly (Mad Cow Chili), Will English (Chili Dawgs), Jack Proctor (Proctor), John Homan (Rajun Cajun), Kim Poole (Hot Lips Chili), Matt Solomon (Sump'n Hot!), Mike Groh (Monumental Chili), Thomas Crawford (St Alfonzo's Soup Kitchen Cooks), Gary Dorris (Team Toilet Bowl), Jim Smith (Sunset Isle Chili Heads), Wanda Gangswich (Three Sheets to the Wind), Bob Alexander, son, and Bob Alexander, dad (Roadkill's Red Hot Chili), Craig Gibson (Apalachicola VFD), Cathy Korfanty (Eastwood Café Maneater Chili), Trent Hatcher (Just Plane Chili), Gary Carlson (Uncle Bugs Chili), Tim Center, Veni Miller (Bubba and Cha Cha Chili Pub) and David Ditmar and Julia Spires (Pod Stalker).

The event begins Friday, Feb. 28 with an art review from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Civil Hall in the East End Firehouse. Preview donation is $5. 

On Saturday, March 1, at 8 a.m. there will be the 5K Red Pepper Run, starting in front of the Blue Parrot. Entry fee is $15 per adult, 0r $10 per person 18 years and under. All entrants will receive a T-shirt. For information, call Susan Bassett at (850) 323-0092. You can register the morning of the race.

Booth set-up begins at 8:30 a.m. At 9:30 a.m., the amateur crock-pot chili must be onsite. $5 entry fee required. 

For the “professional” competition, International Chili Society (rules will be in effect. No beans, pasta, etc. Chili prepared on site from scratch, no prepackaged chili mixes. Meat may be cut, sliced or ground in advance, but no treated or cooked except during competition.

At 11 a.m., the auction starts. Between 12:15 and 12:45 p.m., will be the Miss Chili Pepper judging, and from 12:45 to 1:15 p.m., the Mr. Hot Sauce judging. At 3:30 p.m., awards will be presented in the chili judging area.

For more info, call Grayson Shepard at 653-6718 or email grayshep@yahoo.com