The 5th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off has arrived!

In less than two weeks, the 500 block of Central Avenue in Downtown Laurel will be transformed. The familiar booths will line the street as local folks walk between them enjoying their wares; judges will make their rounds, whispering about this ingredient or that.

But, this time, there’s something a little different in the air. You see, the annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off is about more than chili recipes and fabulous prizes, it’s about the impact you’ll see long after the contest is over.

Did you know that $1 spent at a local restaurant can result in 88 cents returning to the local economy? That’s nearly double the amount of retail stores and other local businesses, and over 4 times the return from big box stores and national chains. Local restaurants help fuel the economy like no other business, and events like the Chili Cook Off go a long way toward attracting our best chefs and entrepreneurs to the downtown area.

In addition to sparking the imaginations of Laurel entrepreneurs, the Chili Cook Off also serves to directly impact the downtown area by helping to fund the LMS Facade & Amenities grant. This grant helps downtown business owners improve the exterior facade of their buildings, provides amenities like parks, benches and trash receptacles, and helps to build the economic strength of our beautiful downtown.

Want to compete in this year’s cook off?

Does your organization, business or group have a team ready to face the competition during the 2016 Chili Cook Off?

Register by February 15 here!


What you can expect from the 5th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off

2015 Chili Cook Off Raffle Prize - Bayou Classic Pot

2015 Raffle – Bayou Classic Pot

On Saturday, February 20th from 10:00 to 2:00 you might find yourself standing amidst the booths on Central Avenue, listening to music from local DJ Jim Thornhill while taking in the delicious smell of over 22 different chili recipes. The teams, competing for over $2000 in prizes and consisting of local groups, organizations, businesses and more, will be waiting to fill your “bottomless” Carl Buchanan pottery bowl as you make your own judgements of who should take home the prized chili trophy.

If you come early, you’ll get to watch as each team prepares their recipe from scratch. No pre-chopping or cooking is allowed! Each team will prepare and cook their secret chili recipe right out in the open for all to watch. Judging will begin at noon, when our expert panel will decide who wins our grand prize.

For those who are not Chili connoisseurs,  free hot dogs are available.  Others will enjoy either the $10 all-you-can-eat bowl or the $25 “bottomless” Carl Buchanan keepsake pottery bowl beginning after the judging at 12:00. A raffle will be held at the end of the event, and the winner will take home a 10 gal cast iron Bayou Classic Jambalya pot and tripod stand. Tickets for the raffle are $10 for 1 or $20 for 3 and can be purchased from any LMS member or at the event.


This year’s panel of judges includes food service experts and a special guest! In order to ensure fairness, teams will be scored in five categories based on their anonymous submission for tasting. Judges will evaluate entries based on color, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste (or bite).

Grand prize winners will be chosen for two categories–Traditional and Homestyle–and will receive $1000 and a traveling trophy. Winners will also be selected for Spirit and People’s Choice! May the best chili win!

Want to know the identity of our judges? You can meet them here.


Thank you to our incredible Sponsors and Producers!

Events like the Chili Cook Off just wouldn’t be possible without the support and backing of local businesses. These sponsorships help pay for the prizes, supplies and more! Their donations also help fund the Laurel Main Street Facade & Amenities grant and are directly responsible for the improvements you see in Downtown Laurel.

Our Signature Sponsor

The Chili Cook Off’s signature sponsor is Magnolia State Bank. We are so thankful that they provide financial support and helping hands every year to make this great event a successful one.

Magnolia State Bank

Our Blazing Sponsor

Sanderson Farms

Our Hot Sponsors

Mississippi PowerCentral Sunbelt FCUCommunity Bank Laurel MSSouthern Beverage CoBancorp Southscrmclogohead


Our Producers

Event producers provide in-kind support of the event by providing products, services or advertising to make the event a reality. Our valued producers this year are Mandy and Carl Buchanan, who provide our beautiful “bottomless” chili bowls, McAlister’s Deli who provides tea and Studio 550 for helping to organize the event.

Join us February 20, 2016 in Downtown Laurel for the 5th Annual Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook Off!

Written by Keri Rowell

Keri is a member of the Laurel Main Street Board of Directors and the Promotions Committee Chair. She has been involved with Laurel Main Street since high school, and owns a small business in Downtown Laurel.