The smell of fresh-cooked chili will be heavy in the air in downtown Tampa today when more than 30 teams of cooks face off for bragging rights in the Steve Otto Chili Cook-Off.
The amateur culinary competition is part of RiverFest, a yearly celebration of food and live music, happening in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday.
For a $10 donation, people can spend the day sampling competitors' chili and salsa while listening to a lineup of local country acts such as the hard-partying Trailer Choir, 15-year-old singer/songwriter Caroline Kole and country-dance act Easy Posse. Admission to the festival and concerts without a chili sampling kit is free.
Attendees will also be able to vote on their favorite chili to win the people's choice award.
As part of RiverFest, the Yacht StarShip will be offering $10 river cruises, taking attendees on a tour of the Hillsborough River that passes under three bridges and goes to the southern tip of Harbour Island. Those cruises will depart at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Proceeds from the chili tasting kits and the river cruises will benefit Friends of the Riverwalk, which works to develop Tampa's downtown riverfront, and the Tampa USO, whose mission is to lift the spirits of local military service members.
The chili cook-off will be hosted by its namesake, longtime Tampa Tribune columnist Steve Otto.