Alford’s 16th Annual Chili Cook-Off

Alford’s 16th Annual Chili Cook-Off

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This year, Alford celebrated its 16th Annual Chili Cook-off where we saw more competitors, vendor sponsorships and fundraising than any previous year. Our fundraising effort was particularly exciting as we launched our first online silent auction two weeks prior to the event. Steve Alford said, “Many of our vendors stepped up and wanted to donate items to help raise money.” Some of the great items we had up for bid were a mini-drone, spa treatment, wine basket, skeet shooting and golf outing. The online portion of the silent auction transitioned well into our live event as we received many generous bids.

When considering what we wanted this year’s charity to be, we were impacted by the number of recent natural disasters and decided to find a comprehensive way to donate. Unlike year’s past, Alford arranged for a few different options of charities to represent. We wanted to allow each person to choose where they wished to donate in regards to disaster relief. Whether it be through the organization GlobalGiving or to our friend, Nathan Clark, who has been helping with volunteers to repair and rebuild in the Mexican city of Juchitán de Zaragoza, which was devastated from the recent earthquakes this past fall.

2017 Chili Cook-Off

Kicking off our 16th chili contest, Steve Alford announced team names as they presented their chili to the judges. This year we had nine judges, more than ever before, and to keep the tastings anonymous each team was issued code names of zoo animals. The chili judges are required to base their final decisions by solely using the criteria of aroma, appearance, taste, and after-taste.

Alford Chili Cook-OffAs part of the chili competition, each team is allowed to perform an act for the judges and audience, who later vote for best showmanship. Some notable performances this year included a Wizard of Oz skit, Biggie parody rap song, green alien invaders, and a humorous dance from the Spice Girls. Guests seemed thrilled by the creative team names and unique performances, laughing and cheering along to their favorites. Our final winners included, the VER Chili Team for People’s Choice, Tom Alford’s Blow You Away Chili for Best Chili and Alford Media Support Staff’s Spice World Chili for Best Showmanship.

This year, we raised a total of $16,000 through gracious donations and our silent auction. The funds dedicated to Nathan Clark were used towards the restoration of clay ovens, which were damaged during the earthquake. These ovens are a main source of income for much of the residents, so these repairs will help countless families. With the donations for GlobalGiving, we chose to fund charities that directly helped children affected by the natural disasters. Some of these charities included; Hurricane Harvey Children’s Relief Fund by Save the Children Federation and Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria Relief by Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Thankfully, these donations will allow them to meet their funding goals.

The First Chili Cook-Off

Alford Chili Cook-Off

In September 2002, America was coming up on the first anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. Understandably, the country was in a somber state and that was notably reflected in our own office. Wanting to find a way to bring some joy and communion back to Alford, we felt it was time to organize a company event we could enjoy together. John Holbrook, a facilitator with us at the time, suggested a chili cook-off and it was well received by Steve and Tom Alford. By that November, we had created an event that would include a few chili stations, some crafts for the kids, and a great new tradition for Alford’s friends and family.

Continuing to keep the chili cook-off an annual event, Alford soon decided to add a charity aspect to the festivities. Each year has been unique in its giving, finding causes that are close to Alford or timely issues within the community. One year, Alford raised money for the family member of an employee who was battling cancer. Another year we asked people to bring canned goods for the North Dallas Food Bank, and more recently we collected gifts for the Toys for Tots Foundation. From the start, Alford’s culture has persistently sought to create ways of giving back. We believe that true success cannot be achieved without the sincere outpouring of goodwill towards our community. As a company, we regularly support outstanding organizations in a variety of capacities, like donating AV equipment to the Make-A-Wish Foundation or volunteering our time to deliver Meals on Wheels.

Planning, Preparation, and Tradition

These days, preparation for the chili cook-off begins months in advance, culminating into an anticipated and well-known Alford event. Our office manager, Rachel Hollis, is one of our main coordinators, paying particular attention to the crafts and kid-friendly entertainment. Hollis said, “We begin planning three months beforehand. Staff and regular participants are notified of the date first.” In the past, November has been a good time for the chili cook-off since more people can join us as the holidays draw near.

Over the years that Alford has hosted the chili cook-off, we’ve seen steady growth in participation, creative new entertainment for the family and a supportive community that continues to get involved. Some of the most memorable entertainment has included the Olympic Gold Medalist, Shawn Johnson, singing the Star-Spangled Banner and our six flags inspired train ride which drove around a specially decorated Alford building, concluding in a fog-filled laser light show inside our theatre.

Alford Chili Cook-OffAlford’s culture is tight-knit, fostering a family atmosphere of teamwork and support, so our employees would tell you that the most memorable year so far was 2009, when we jointly celebrated our company’s 25th Anniversary. The highlight of the celebration was the “Burgundy Challenge”, a 20-week contest where employees were to demonstrate company values in order to reach levels of Burgundy, from Powder Pink on up to Burgundy to the Bone. If the entire company got to Burgundy to the Bone, the reward was to see Tom Alford shave off his beard. Tom’s beard had not been shaved since before he was married over 20 years prior. In the end, all our employees reached their goal and Tom’s beard was shaved off while on stage with everyone at the cook-off watching along. Melanie Reed, our VP of Operations, said one of the most memorable presentations for her was the Austin Powers chili team she was a part of with her family. It included a skit and full cast of characters from Austin Powers and Dr. Evil to Mini Me and Number 2. Their authentic costumes and funny skit awarded them Best Showmanship that year.

Alford’s Annual Chili Cook-Off has become a time-honored tradition where employees, vendors, clients and their family and friends can all gather for time well spent together. Through the years, we’ve seen this event grow from a few chili stations to its largest turn out this year of twenty-one chili teams, bringing with it an ever-expanding attendance. Each year, the Alford chili cook-off produces new opportunity for friendly competition, a chance to support charitable causes and a community that truly cares for their neighbors.

Alford Media