Carlo Creek Annual Chili Cook-Off!
Began in 1999 with a friendly argument between friends over a bottle of wine, about who had the best chili. After a few more bottles of wine we decided to bring back the chili cook-off event of earlier days. Now each year in May we begin our season with a great party complete with live local music, dancing, bon fire, frisbee, horseshoes, and of course free chli and great-cheap beer!
Chili Cook Off Community-2004
By: Willie Karidis, Denali Foundation, Former Executive Director
One of the things that I love about Denali is the outstanding community who live here. No where is this more evident than in the family atmosphere of McKinley Creekside Cabins. From the very beginning Holly, Tracey and Coleman have created a welcoming feeling of acceptance and fun with their employees, customers and the greater Denali community. They have always been willing to help their neighbors in times of need, donate to local charities, and build bonfires at night to allow guests and friends to share stories of their day and relax after another day in paradise.
As one of the original Carlo Creek Chili Cook-off judges which happens every year at “the Creekside” in May I have had the opportunity to not only taste wonderful homemade chili’s but to also and more importantly watch a community come together to support and get to know each other. As the first of many local community events held each summer in Denali the “Chili Cook-off” is for many the initiation to what really makes Denali special, the people. Yes, we are all here because of the spectacular wildlife, stunning vistas, and extreme weather but the people make Denali complete. The diversity of people from all over the world who are drawn here make for unique common ground which they then share while working or playing. Imagine coming from and meeting people from places such as Georgia, Minnesota, California or even the Czech Republic and the next thing you know you are in the backcountry of Denali on a multiple night camping excursion in Grizzly Bear country with your new friends.
The backcountry is an amazing place; here you find you are not at the top of the food chain which once you experience this is both humbling and exhilarating. Your senses are heightened, you gather strength you never knew you had and food never tasted so good. As you venture further from the Denali Park road you become part of the landscape and your acceptance and acknowledgement of this only aids you in your survival. High drama unfolds as caribou cross your path, eagles swoop dall sheep lambs, and wolves howl across the valley floor talking to each other in a chorus of mutual understanding. At night you sleep as never before, aware of your wild neighbors who are foraging and preparing for winter but also lost in the deafening silence of the wilderness. When you finally venture back to the road once again your life has been transformed as only Denali can. You will be forever linked to that person or persons you have shared this experience with as they will be with you. Wow, all of that from a Chili Cook-off!
That’s right, your stay in Denali and the exceptional service and friendliness of the locals here may be the direct result of the generosity of the Creekside during that first get together in May. The Creekside sets the tone for the community and for that I for one am eternally grateful. Enjoy your stay in Denali and in Alaska, you are fortunate to have such a grand and glorious playground.