Edgerton’s largest annual party draws thousands of fans, donates thousands of dollars

As chili cooks can attest, the search for that perfect recipe is a lifelong pursuit. The main ingredients remain consistent, but there’s always a bit of experimentation that goes on with each delicious batch made. A dash more of this, a pinch less of that — all to see (and taste) how the flavors mix and meld.

The same premise applies to organizing and producing an annual event for the better part of three decades. Now in its 29th year and held during the weekend following Labor Day in downtown Edgerton, Chilimania co-founder Dr. Tom Reitz believes “Edgerton’s largest annual party” has found a near-perfect concoction:

Take a late-summer weekend. Add plenty of chili, music, friends and, fun. Throw in some food, beverages, and (hopefully) some sunshine. This recipe yields enough for 5,000 people and serves all of Edgerton through scholarships for college-bound high school seniors and donations to an array of community-based organizations and projects.

“It’s amazing how Chilimania just gets bigger and better every year,” said Reitz, an Edgerton native who followed his father into dentistry. “As the years have gone by, we’ve learned a lot about what works, and a lot about what might not fit into the mix very well. It seems like chili and classic rock and an outdoor street party really makes it attractive to people.”

As proof of the festival’s popularity, Chilimania was voted as the Best Tourism Event in the 2017 Best of Kosh Awards presented by the Edgerton Reporter.

Queen Nation

Bringing the rock to the Rock River Valley

Aside from being the longtime host to the Wisconsin state-championship Chili Appreciation Society International’s (CASI) cook-off, Chilimania has long prided itself on its live music lineup, complete with a professional stage, sound system and light show. The festival often features regionally and nationally known tribute acts, providing a big-time show at family-friendly prices.

The 2018 edition should excite longtime fans and first-timers alike. Headlining on Saturday night this year is Queen Nation, a Los Angeles-based Queen tribute act whose live, 90-minute production of the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame band’s greatest hits preserves the image, sound, and stage persona of vintage Queen.

The Saturday lineup also features Bostyxx, playing the best of Boston and Styx; Infinity, with their mix of arena-rock anthems and hits; Heartache Tonight, bringing the sounds of The Eagles to Edgerton; and the Monday Morning Dixie Band, kicking off Chilimania for the 28th consecutive year with all the Dixieland classics.

Country Edge 2018 Headliner TBA

A Country beginning to the weekend

There’s no need for concern if rock-n-roll is not your thing. Now in its third year, Chilimania presents Country Edge on Friday, Sept. 8. Held on the Chilimania grounds, the only chili you’ll find will be for sale from our food vendors. (More on that later …) What you will find is a lineup full of some of the finest local, regional and national Country music acts kicking off the Chilimania weekend on our Main Stage.

“Country Edge was created as a way to cater to all the Country music fans in southern Wisconsin,” said co-organizer Casey Schmeling. “For years we got requests to book Country acts, but it was difficult to mix them into our rock-based lineup. We decided to dedicate a separate event specifically for the Country crowd.”

In just a few short years, Country Edge has gained the reputation for bringing big-time talent to small-town Edgerton. The lineup routinely features both Nashville up-and-comers and hitmakers alike, supported by some of the finest regional talent from Wisconsin and beyond. For instance, Country Edge 2017 featured country star Keith Anderson, best known for his top-10 song “Pickin’ Wildflowers.” He was supported by local party band Pink Houses, fronted by Edgerton dentist and Chilimania co-found Dr. Tom Reitz.

We have another special lineup arranged for 2018, but for contractual reasons we cannot announce the act’s name until July. Please visit chilimania.com for headline act and ticket information.

Rounding out the Friday night lineup are Saving Savannah, a dynamite Milwaukee-based act playing “Country music as it should be”; and A Tad of Sarahcha, an Edgerton-based duo playing all your favorite Country tunes accompanied by another local act, TheMadTadders.

Public Chili Tasting

Before the Mania, there must be Chili

Did you notice that we’ve come this far and barely talked about chili? Well there’s no need for concern, as we haven’t forgotten about the biggest part of the entire weekend! Chilimania is host to both CASI and traditional chili cook-off contests, as well as a Best Salsa competition.

All cooks are encouraged to also participate in the CASI Showmanship category, for which they must choose a booth theme complete with decorations, costumes, a skit and more. This makes for a flavorful and fun event for all ages.

One of the most popular parts of Chilimania Saturday is the public tasting, which begins promptly at 3PM. This allows all attendees to sample as many chilis as they would like (or have time to try) and vote for their favorite as the coveted People’s Choice Award, which comes with a cash prize and hand-carved wood trophy for the winner.

It’s amazing how quickly a couple thousand people can polish off countless gallons of chili — it can sometimes happen in under an hour! In order to accommodate growing crowds and their hungry bellies, Chilimania in 2018 has reduced its cook-off registration fee by a third and is encouraging its cook-off participants to make more than the minimum two gallons per cook.

“It’s not cheap to make enough chili to feed thousands of people, even when the cups only hold a couple ounces apiece,” said Dr. David Luellwitz, Chilimania board of directors president and co-chair of the Cook-off Committee. “We wanted to make it easier for our cooks to participate while at the same time ensuring that sampling lasts long enough to allow people to try as much chili as they’d like.”

Once sampling is complete, attendees turn in their People’s Choice ballots, with the winner being announced alongside other categories from the Main Stage at 6:45PM.

Chili Chase

A healthy start to your big day

The fifth annual Chili Chase will be held on Saturday, Sept. 8 in downtown Edgerton. This year’s race includes both a 5K and 10K route.

The Chili Chase is a fun run and walk that serves as the official kickoff for the annual, daylong Chilimania festival. The Chili Chase is a fundraising event, with all proceeds from entry fees donated back to the community via the Chilimania Scholarship & Community Donations Fund.

Runners and walkers of all ages and abilities — and their four-legged friends, who are invited to compete to become the official Chilimania Mascot — are encouraged to participate.

Entrants choose between a 5K or 10K route — registration costs are the same. Back by popular demand, the 2018 Chili Chase will again be chip-timed by Tortoise & Hare Timing Co., who also will handle the online registration process.

All competitors (especially pets) are encouraged to dress up in chili-themed costumes to add to the festive atmosphere. There are prizes for the top finishers, and all competitors ages 21+ receive Chilimania’s nearly world-famous “Bloody beers” after they cross the finish line. Plus, participate in fun games and challenges and you could win some Chili Gear!

Chilimania's Best bloody Mary Contest

Spice up your Chilimania morning

Help us decide who makes the Edgerton area’s best Bloody Mary! Chilimania’s fifth annual Best Bloody Mary Contest will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at Two Brothers Pub & Grill in downtown Edgerton. The contest follows the conclusion of the Chili Chase 5K/10K.

Admission is FREE … but you must be 21 to register to be a judge. Come and enjoy the best Bloody Marys the Edgerton area has to offer!

The goal is to have a FUN time and find out which local bar can create the best-looking (how good it looks aesthetically) and best-tasting (how pleasing it is to the tastebuds) Bloody Mary! The competitors’ Bloody Mary mix will be judged and awarded in two categories:

Anyone in attendance (ages 21+) may enter to be a judge. Judges will be chosen that morning using a lottery system. Samples from all contestants will be available to those not selected as judges.

Our judges will be determine the entry with Best Overall Taste via a blind tasting of mixtures excluding any dressings, condiments, and/or garnishes. They also will choose the Best Display via a visual judging of a 16-ounce display drink, with all the fixings included.

The winning bar will receive a “traveling trophy” plaque with their bar’s name inscribed, which they can display throughout the year. New this year, the winning bartender will receive a prize package containing Chili Gear and prizes from local merchants.

The 2017 winners were Last Nite Bar & Grill (Best Overall Taste) and the 59er Diner (Best Display).

The Curd Crew

More for your tastebuds than just chili

Even the most-seasoned chili fans will tell you that it’s impossible to exist on chili alone — although we don’t blame anyone for trying! There is a wide variety of food available during both Country Edge and Chilimania.

From BBQ to pizza to burgers and sweets, there’s something for every taste and appetite. Some of our vendors are run and staffed by local nonprofit organizations, so you’ll be helping their causes while noshing and indulging.

Country Edge and Chilimania also are proud to again this year partner with Bud Light as the presenting sponsor of our bar area. Attendees 21 years old and older with proper ID can enjoy a variety of ice-cold canned beers, ciders, and other malt beverages. In addition, Chilimania serves red and white varieties of Barefoot wine in individually sized plastic bottles.

There’s fun for the whole family

Chili, beer, and loud music might not sound like a child-friendly environment, but Chilimania offers a dedicated area for families and children to escape the crowds and noise and have some fun. Located in the public parking lot on the west side of North Henry Street, the Children’s Area features family-friendly games, and activities. This area is open from noon to 5PM.

Admission and location information

Chilimania and all related activities are held in downtown Edgerton, Wisconsin. The Chilimania grounds are located on North Henry Street and the surrounding areas. The main gate is located at the intersection of West Fulton Street and North Henry Street. There also are gates located on the north, east, and west sides of the grounds.

  • The Country Edge and Chilimania Main Stage is located just north of the intersection of North Henry Street and West Canal Street.
  • The Chili Chase 5K/10K begins and ends in front of Sara’s Health & Fitness, 121 N. Henry St.
  • The Best Bloody Mary contest is held at 2 Brothers Pub & Grill, 116 W. Fulton St.

Separate admission is required for Country Edge (Friday) and Chilimania (Saturday). Hand stamps will be available for those who wish to leave and re-enter the grounds on either date.

  • Country Edge admission is: TBA (check chilimania.com for details; children 12 & under are admitted free with an adult.
  • Chilimania admission is: $8 for adults; children 12 & under are admitted free with an adult.

Free, on-street parking is available throughout the downtown area and on adjoining streets. There are some business and property owners who charge a fee to park on their property.

We ask all attendees to please be respectful of our business and residential neighbors while traveling to/from the festival grounds.

Country Edge and Chilimania are family-friendly events, so there are no weapons allowed anywhere on the grounds! Please leave all weapons at home or locked securely in your vehicle.