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Chili on Our Minds at Mar-Val

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

The 49er Festival is coming and we’ve got chili on our minds. Who better to partner with to sponsor the Chili Cook-Off than our own downtown market, Mar-Val?

Let’s face it. Almost every body who eats likes chili. It’s a regular item on most American family at-home menus and most have a particular recipe handed down from previous generations. Whether it’s con carne or vegan, spicy or mild, loaded with vegetables or just beans and spices, topped with onions and cheese, doused with jalapenos, or in a rich mole sauce, chili is what’s cookin’. And Sponsor Mar-Val Food Stores is stocked with all the ingredients you need to serve up your abuela’s favorite recipe.

The Chili Cook-Off is traditionally one of the biggest draws for 49er Festival-goers. Local teams of “just folks” prepare ten gallons of their secret recipes onsite under strict guidelines from Tuolumne County’s Department of Health. The more creative competitors deck out their chili booths to enhance your tasting experience. It’s part of the fun to arrive after the Parade and begin to smell those luscious aromas of chili-in-the-making. But the biggest part of the fun is the tasting and voting for the 2023 People’s Choice and Best Booth awards.

Kathy Miller accepts First Place in the Judges Choice Chili Cook-Off in 2022.

Defending their two-year championship title and placement on the perpetual trophy “Chili Bear,” Wayne and Kathy Miller are bringing it again this year with their award-winning secret recipe. Rumored to be made with local venison, it’s easy to understand why the Millers reign when it comes to chili. Wayne also reigns as the owner of MWK Masonry and Kathy is about to be installed as Groveland’s new postmaster. Don’t miss her official ceremony next Friday, August 25 at noon at the Groveland post office. Congratulations, Kathy!

But don’t let the Millers put you off! If you’re a true Chili Believer with a great recipe, there’s still time and space for you to bring on your best chili. It’s tight, but Chili Cook-Off Chair Bob Turney is ready to help. Call or text him at 510-520-9055 or email him at for more information.

This year, we’re hoping to add a few non-competing “Exhibition Chilis” from our favorite local restaurants and food service establishments. Watch for news on the Exhibition chili line-up.

Thanks to Mar-Val’s sponsorship of the Chili Cook-Off, this year’s Chili Tasting Kit bags are worth shelling out an Alexander Hamilton even if you don’t like chili. These awesome 100%

cotton string backpacks will be chock full of everything you need to taste and vote for your favorite chili (wristband, spoon, napkin, notes and voting tickets), plus cool swag and useful items from our sponsors and chamber members like The Grove Mercantile, Rush Creek/Evergreen Lodge, Yosemite Lakes/Thousand Trails, Mechanics Bank, and more. . The 49er Festival & Chili Cook-Off string backpacks will be available for pre-order at $9 each later this month (watch the Weekly and social media for announcements) and on Festival Day for $10 each. Get your Festival backpack before supplies run out!

As Hot Chili Charlie would say, "Git on over to Mar-Val to whip up a batch of your own favorite chili. And get your taste buds ready to taste some of the best chili in Tuolumne County. We’ll see you on September 16 at the 2023 49er Festival & Chili Cook-Off.

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