ESTERO — Two new teams from Estero Fire Rescue are vying for bragging rights in the annual Chili and Rib Cook-off against seasoned teams including Estero’s chief officers and firefighters from San Carlos Park.
The Estero team captained by Div. Chief Todd Coulter took home two trophies last year, one for Best Overall Ribs and one as the People’s Choice Winner for chili. The Southern Boys of San Carlos Park won the judge’s choice for Best Overall Chili.
This year, they’ll receive some additional competition, with eight teams in the battle, including two new teams from Estero Fire. Inspector Scott Danielson is heading up “Scooter’s Ribs,” and Estero fire commissioners also will join the friendly firehouse competition.
“I think we’re going to have fun with this,” said Commissioner Jim Mendolera, chief cook for the commissioners’ team.
He’s planning to use a recipe dubbed “Jim’s Firehouse Chili,” which he developed as a firefighter for more than 30 years in Cleveland.
“I made it at the firehouse, and I’ve tweaked it a little bit so people can eat it,” said Mendolera, noting he’s toning down the heat for Celebrate Estero. He’s anxious to see how his Northern chili fares against meatier Southern varieties.
“It’s all about the bragging rights,” said EFR’s Public Relations Manager, Susan Lindenmuth, who organizes the annual cook-off each year.
Lindenmuth said she is thrilled to see eight teams participating this weekend, including some from businesses and community organizations. Other teams competing against the firehouse teams include The Colony Golf and Country Club, “Wildcat Chefs” of Estero High School, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt and “Bubba’s Buddies” from Estero United Methodist Church Men’s Ministries. Each of the teams is donating proceeds to a charity of choice.
Although chili and ribs are the highlight of the day for many, Celebrate Estero also offers plenty of alternative amusement. The event kicks off at Miromar Outlets at 11 a.m. with a performance by the Estero High School Jazz Band.
The Cool Cruisers will bring their awesome autos to show, and Miromar Outlets has organized a Sibling Look-Alike Contest to be held at noon. Stilt walker Way Too Tall Torrie will be strolling around and twisting balloon animals for children, while Evan’s Entertainment will be providing face painting.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Department and Estero Fire Rescue will add their vehicles to the festivities, and many Estero businesses will be setting up booths with giveaways.
The Estero Chamber of Commerce made a deliberate decision to move the date for its annual celebration of Estero from February to the end of season this year, Chamber President Debi Montenieri said, noting Celebrate Estero is really for the local community.
It allows local business representatives to interact with their neighbors in a fun, relaxed setting, she added. Public safety institutions also seize the opportunity to meet with those they serve, said Capt. Morgan Bowden of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
As the Chamber prepares to celebrate all things Estero, the organization also is celebrating a fresh sense of direction which is attracting new members every month, Montenieri said. During the last two years, the Chamber has added several networking opportunities for its members, which include monthly Business After Hours, Rise & Shine Estero and Lunch & Learn Estero events.
IF YOU GO
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 6
Where: Miromar Outlets, 10801 Corkscrew Road
What: Vote for the best chili and ribs and enjoy music, giveaways and cool cars. Sibling Look Alike Contest at noon.