Free. Chili.

Are there any two words tastier than those?

The sun was bright, the air was crisp and Smokey’s Farmland Band set the tone with live bluegrass music as Monday’s Chili Cook-Off kicked off Emory’s Homecoming Week on Asbury Circle.

This year’s Homecoming theme is “Swoop’s County Fair.”

At the Cook-Off, students enjoyed chili samples from many different area restaurants – which competed for recognition as having the best chili in addition to a certificate, a blue ribbon and bragging rights. Local eateries in particular – The Highlander and Grindhouse – emerged as two student favorites in the competition and went head-to-head in order to convince attendees that their chili was the most mouth-wateringly delicious. Students voted on which chili they preferred at a special booth at the Cook-Off.

Necol Ronda, a senior in the College, claimed that her palate for spicy foods caused her to vote for the Highlander’s chili – which, in her opinion, had a remarkably stronger kick.

However, some other students did not share her sentiments.

Tyler Brown, a senior in the College, said he chose to vote for the Grindhouse due to what he felt to be the unique combination of spices and ketchup that the restaurant used in its chili.

Restaurants offered numerous other tasty treats – after braving painfully long lines, students could munch on fried Oreos and Twinkies that were drizzled in chocolate syrup and powdered sugar.

In addition, the Chili Cook-Off – which was organized by the Student Programming Council (SPC) – included many other attractions for those who attended. Students could dunk SPC members in a tank of water or have their fortunes told by a psychic. Event organizers had set up a photo booth, complete with costumes and accessories, as well as a beer garden.

College juniors Carly Cindrich and Meena Iyer – who serve as the co-chairs of the SPC Homecoming Committee – were in charge of organizing the event. Cindrich said the extensive preparations and planning that went into the event began last May, right after finals week. She said she and Iyer began brainstorming ideas and eventually came up with the idea for the Chili Cook-Off.

“Way more work went into this than you would ever imagine,” Cindrich said of the planning process. “People don’t realize the logistical work involved.”

Homecoming Week continues with SPC’s next event on Wonderful Wednesday. Be on the look out for a mechanical bull, a petting zoo and, of course, more fried food.

By Harmeet Kaur