LAKELAND, FLA., NOV. 7–10—The flyer proudly states “World Famous Chili Challenge,” and while I’m not so sure that is the case, in Central Florida it’s definitely very popular. What started as a culinary challenge back in 1986 between Roscoe and one of his friends, Lil Hank, has morphed into a four-day event of debauchery and hedonism. It began as a family affair with Roscoe’s grandmother, Meemaw, lending her spirit and drive to it, and it has continued to grow with his own offspring and their family members helping out now. One of the reasons for the popularity is that this weekend event rivals any local rally with its offerings. Besides the chili competition on Saturday morning, throughout the weekend there are biker games, vendors, a wet T-shirt contest, a bike show, plenty of music and even a fake orgasm contest. (I did mention the debauchery part, right?)
Since my first visit years ago, this event has secured a permanent spot on my calendar for the first weekend in November. Twice during the last few years I even put in an appearance while on crutches. This year, I took along a friend—Billy Fender, a virgin to Roscoe’s event. We recently became acquainted via Facebook after I saw some of the posts on his page, Bikers for America. We’ve become fast friends and I respect his outspoken defense of our rights as Americans. Since this was Billy’s first time, I explained the particulars of the event—Roscoe’s compound is fenced and therefore considered private property, and partygoers can come and go, spend the day or the weekend, bring their food and adult refreshments and act about as crazy as they like. Pretty much anything goes as long as you’re not acting like a fool or endangering another person. And since the neighbors enjoy a little extra income derived from parking and such, they don’t mind a little insanity for a few days every November. And Roscoe’s liability coverage firmly states that they accept no responsibility for the possibility of the wrong partner in the wrong tent after the party starts. They also claim no responsibility for unwanted children or loss of clothes or virginity! After Billy had time to digest all this, he was more than willing to tag along to see if the event was everything he’d heard.
Since neither of us had the luxury of spending the entire weekend, we arrived a little before 11:00 Saturday morning and were privy to the awakening of those who had enjoyed the night before. And some of them could have easily auditioned for the popular television series The Walking Dead. The registration for the chili competition was complete and the cooking already in process, but the sampling would not begin until around noon after the judges had completed their duties. So we browsed the different cook stations and talked to a couple of the competitors who would be vying for the prize money and trophies. Two classes would be recognized, Hot and Mild, with $1,000 going to each winner.
One pleasant lady stirring her concoction was Polly, a member of the Fred’s Cluster Fux’s team from Plant City. She was friendly and was happy to pose by her cauldron for a photo. Fred passed away since last year’s Challenge, but his friends decided to carry on this tradition that he had enjoyed for several years. They even came up with a new tagline for their concoction, “Chili to Die For!” (Really?)
At the body painting shed several gals were already getting sprayed with colorful designs. Now, I am no prude by any means, and I’ve seen a sight or two over the years, but I have often wondered why so many people decide to do this, especially when they appear to be sober. Let’s face it: after a certain age there are some things that no amount of paint can hide. But to each his (or her) own, I guess.
While on the vendor tour, we ran into my friends Bruce Cerny from C.O.B.B. (Crippled Old Biker Brothers) and Ken from Boots on the Ground, two of my favorite organizations. After catching up on the news with Ken and signing the next flag to be mailed to a military unit in Afghanistan, we heard the announcement that the bike games were about to begin and, of course, the chili samples were ready at the same time.
The Outhouse Internationals was the first bike game on the agenda. Now, while it’s one thing to see a full-size cruiser pull a porta-potty down the concrete slab, watching a crotch rocket do it is even more entertaining. Of course this particular one looked like it had done this a few times in the past, as the gas tank and fenders bore signs of lost struggles. Next up were the competitors for the Slow Race and Slow Race with Partner. Following that was the Wienie Bite, which is always entertaining to watch. There were several entries in each of the classes, and it seemed to take forever with the eliminations running on and on.
By the time we returned to the chili barn most of the samples were gone so we opted for pizza as our gourmet lunch. It was about this time we encountered a fellow we had seen several times during the day—a roving guitarist named Danny Simmons. Billy, being a musician and songwriter himself, struck up a conversation with Danny and they swapped music stories and tunes by smartphones.
By midafternoon the body painting business was alive and well with both male and female specimens of walking artwork, many of which should have kept some (if not all) of their clothes on. But what the hell… it’s the craziness and the (excuse the expression) “let-it-all-hang-out” attitude that brings us back year after year to Roscoe’s.
On our way over to witness the Fake Orgasm contest, I ran into Spike from down around Tampa who I’ve seen every year at Roscoe’s. After collecting my hug we pressed on to the orgasm contest, which is funnier than watching someone try to bathe a cat. I can’t help but think some of these gals have been watching way too many X-rated movies… or maybe they just have a secret ambition to star in one. They scream and holler and moan loud enough to wake the dead, and usually sound like they are giving birth rather than having a good time or any sort of pleasure.
After awarding the trophy to a loud little redhead who provided a stage name, the emcee announced the winners of the bike games: Art West was the winner of the Outhouse Internationals, Flap & Flap’s Bitch took the Slow Race and the Slow Race with Partner competition, and T.J. won the minibike races. Then a band called Night Train, a Guns N’ Roses tribute band, took the stage to provide some musical diversion. My favorite out of the musical lineup was Hat Trick who played Friday with two other bands, Bully for You and Side Effects, rounding out the weekend’s entertainment.
By seven that evening, the natives were getting restless and the few inhibitions that remained were quickly falling by the wayside. The competitions scheduled for later that evening were definitely for the more mature audience members and those in the appropriate frame of mind. For the guys, there was the Art of the Pole Dance contest with a hefty $1,000 prize going to the best performance. This rivalry brings out the ladies in all shapes and sizes from several of the nearby gentlemen’s clubs. And earlier in the day I’d heard rumors that there was going to be a “big package” contest just for the ladies. And although that one sparked my interest, my moral boundaries had been tested enough for one day and I decided it was best to pass.
Billy and I agreed it was time to close the book on my 13th visit and his first, but with plans to do it all over again next year. For more pictures and information on next year’s event, go to www.roscoeschilichallenge.com and start making your plans now. Bring an open mind—but leave your inhibitions at home.