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Frederick hosts 12th Cotton Festival and Chili Cook-Off

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FREDERICK — When it comes to celebrating local agriculture, Frederick knows how to throw a party.

The Frederick Chamber of Commerce will host the 12th Annual Cotton Festival and Chili Cook-Off Saturday on the Tillman County Courthouse lawn.

“Cotton is a huge crop in our county,” said Chamber Executive Director Felisha Drawford, adding that the festival started in the 1950s, and after a number of years off, the Chamber decided to bring it back a dozen years ago. “It’s a way for us to honor cotton and the agriculture in our community.”

New this year is the Tillman County Historical Society’s pancake breakfast from 9-11 a.m. Breakfast is $7 for adults and $5 for children, in advance.

Throughout the day, attendees can take a bus to the Tillman Producers Coop’s cotton gin, where the gin manager will give tours and explain the cotton harvesting process.

Contestants also will compete in the Little Miss Cotton Boll and Maid of Cotton pageants. This year, seven girls in grades first through third will compete for the title of Little Miss Cotton. Five girls in grades fourth through sixth are registered to compete to be the Maid of Cotton for the next year.

“We ask them, on stage, questions on cotton and we require their outfits be at least 75 percent cotton,” Drawford said. “They learn about the importance of our cotton crops and get more comfortable with public speaking.”

The winners go on to participate in town parades and Chamber events, often leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

The day’s entertainment continues with a cornhole tournament and cow patty bingo, which, according to Drawford, is one of the day’s most popular attractions. Purchased tickets are placed on the ground in a traditional bingo grid, and it’s up to a special guest’s bowels to decide which square is called next.

“VanderLaan Dairy always brings a heifer out that is well fed and watered,” Drawford said. “It’s hilarious.”

The day wouldn’t be complete without the annual chili cook-off, and Drawford said the Chamber has $1,400 in prizes to hand out to teams with the tastiest recipes.

“We have 13 teams this year, which is a pretty good size for us,” she said.

With a ticket purchase, attendees can sample all the chilis, vote for their favorite and then enjoy an entire bowl of their selection.

“The Frederick Fire Department has either won or been first runner-up for as many years as I can remember,” Drawford said. “They’ll be the guys to take down this year.”

Fire Chief James Heap said over the years, local firefighters have always whipped up hearty pots of chili at the station during down time between calls.

“Whenever (the cook-off) came up, we decided to enter it and have had good luck,” he said.

What’s award winning about the fire department’s chili recipe?

“Maybe it’s the spiciness of it,” Heap mused. “To some, it’s rather spicy, but to people that enjoy spicy food, it’s just right.”

Heap said the firefighters have essentially kept their recipe the same each year, though they occasionally experiment with different cooking methods and ingredients.

“Matter of fact, today we’re making up a pot of chili and trying some different things,” he said, adding that people should head to Frederick Saturday and decide for themselves.

“We hope people will enjoy what we make,” he said.

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