Twenty-two years ago, a group of Rotary club members started meeting once a year, to see who had the better chili, according to Sam Black, coordinator for the Rotary club. As the years passed, the gathering grew. Some four years ago, it was decided to really get the beautiful Bonita Springs community involved. The Rotary club was able to find the support needed from myriad of local businesses and residents.
Open to the general public, Taste of Bonita kicked off the weekend with a wine tasting Friday night, featuring more than 30 wines, 60 craft beers, and the food needed for a complete package. Concluding the event at 9:00 p.m., the park was readied for the Chili Cook Off to start Saturday morning. Attendees could sample the different chili’s through the afternoon. From NAME’s bean-less Texas Chili, to the husband and wife team of Arc of Life, presenting their organic chili, Bonita residents brought their A-game to Riverside Park.
Various local artists of all mediums displayed their works in the park for view. Barbar Smith feels her art stems directly from the Bonita community, saying, “All of my art is for Bonita. Everything I paint, it’s with the community in mind. It’s beautiful down here, and people love water colors, and the tropics. I teach some classes at some of the retirement communities as well. It’s just a great way to get involved with the community, and Taste of Bonita is a great event.”
Following some light rain, the park was quickly cleared at 3:00 p.m. to set up for that evening’s concert, a performance by The Caribbean Chiller’s, a Jimmy Buffet Tribute Band that Rotary Club members, such as Black, get excited for. “They’re a great band, everybody enjoys them. And it’s fun for everyone.”
The red carpet was rolled out for the main event on Sunday, with the highest turn out the weekend had seen so far. Sunday featured local restaurants with their favorite plates. Buffalo Chips, DeRomo’s, For Heaven Shakes, Randy’s Fish Market, Fitzgerald’s, and Sweet Odin’s were just a few of the local eateries waring their most prized plates. The setup also featured a play area for children, complete with a rock climbing wall, bounce house, and the games guaranteeing every child a winner, such as hit the balloon with a pin.
Judges taking notes Saturday during chilli cook-off