ChiliFest in Chapala

It’s getting warmer here in Chapala. The malecon is swarming with families and vendors. Folks are swimming in the lake. Everyone, it seems, is getting ready for Carnaval, the raucous festival that precedes Lent.

Indeed, while the locals anticipate Lent, the gringos have a festival of their own here at Lakeside called the Mexican National Chili Cookoff. Now celebrating its 41st year of supporting local charities focused on children, seniors and healthcare.

Chilifest in my name for it; otherwise it’s a mouthful.

The cookoff is held at Tobolandia, a water theme park that holds a prime piece of local real estate at the corner where Walmart anchors one side; the local mall another, Domino’s and some other retailers yet a third and Tobolandia.

Truthfully I was never sure until this weekend that Tobolandia was actually a functioning park. It’s set kind of back off the highway and clearly a water themed park,  yet despite passing it dozens if not hundreds of times it never seemed to be a happening place.

Well, it was this weekend. For it is the site of the Chili Cookoff. And, interestingly enough, the park itself was open and a few locals were taking advantage of the sunny warmth to enjoy the water delights there.


Chilifest it turns out in set toward the back of the park in a lovely wooded area with an open space for a stage and food court.

However, that’s the puzzle of Chilifest.

During the year I had heard from my neighbors about the Cookoff, that it boasted vendors and artisans, many with unique and beautiful works on display and for sale.

Yet, I didn’t hear anything about chili.

Of course, when I hear chili cookoff, I anticipate tables and grills and guys and gals in festive aprons grilling meats and stirring vats of bubbling chilis with competing ingredients and varying degrees of spicy heat.

Not here. I hunted and hunted for some sign of chili. I found a food court, kinda like you’d expect at any fair in the U.S. Then, asking around I was directed to a tent where indeed the chili cookoff was in full swing.

While, as you can see from the photos above, there was a long line of folks waiting to taste the chilis in the contest, to my best discernment, there seemed to be three contestants.

The main purpose of chilifest is indeed the display of arts and crafts from the cream of the crop of local and not-so-local artisans and craftspeople. All kinds of jewelry, clothes, leatherworks, painting, handcrafted knives (some total beauties there) and all kinds of goodies. Truly spectacular. Truly beautiful.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Scouts of Mexico. Glad to know that the Scouts are thriving here. All the best to you from an Eagle Scout of many years.





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