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Heat is on at annual chili cook-off

Chili: Saturday’s event offers food and fun in Castaic

Posted: September 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Participants in the chili competition dress up to gain attention for their extra hot chili. Participants in the chili competition dress up to gain attention for their extra hot chili.
Participants in the chili competition dress up to gain attention for their extra hot chili.

Last  week’s  announcement  that Los Angeles was successful in  its bid to host the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games had  the phones ringing in the organization’s Santa Clarita Valley offices.

Coaches offered their services, volunteers wanted to sign up for events and athletes from throughout the SCV wanted to know when could they start trying out for their events.

“I told them, ‘No, you just have to wait,’ ” said Laura Mayo, regional director of Southern California Special Olympics. “The games are four years away.”

Those athletes, characterized by their endearing enthusiasm, will at least be able to practice their parading skills Saturday when the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department holds its annual Fun in the Sun Chili Cook-Off at the Jack Bones Equestrian Center in Castaic.

As part of opening ceremonies, Special Olympics athletes from six sports will be dressed in their signature teal shirts and march with members of Dance Studio 84, ROTC cadets from Saugus High School and riders from the Sheriff’s Department’s Mounted Enforcement Detail as colors are presented and flags raised.

“Last year, the guys on horseback went through rather unceremoniously,” Mayo said. “We thought if we added athletes in their colorful outfits, it might give it an air of a more regal opening.”

For weeks, the local office staff and volunteers have been selling hundreds of advance tickets for the event.

 The public will see the athletes’ march and its chili booth, called Ice Age Chili named after the wintry fundraiser the Polar Bear Plunge. At 2:30 p.m., the Special Olympics Dancers will perform, trained by Dance Studio 84’s Carla Hunt Smallwood.

A dozen dancers have been rehearsing a short but catchy routine set to the 2009 pop tune “Ma Ya Hi,” also known as the “Numa Numa Song” by the Romanian group O-Zone.

Smallwood has been working with special needs dancers at her Valencia studio for years as part of her schedule of 140 classes a month.

A major focus of Special Olympics is to develop physical fitness using sports as its core as well as to empower those with intellectual disabilities to be leaders in society.

In September, the SCV’s, 350 Special Olympics athletes took part in two softball tournaments, two bowling tournaments, the Disneyland Half Marathon, tennis and volleyball competitions and held its ninth annual golf tournament.

To help raise funds for events, the law enforcement community has played a major supporting role over the past 25 years, largely through the Law Enforcement Torch Run which came to California from Wichita, Kan., in 1988.

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department began its participation in 1990 and last year, all Southern California agencies raised more than $1.3 million for Special Olympics through the Torch Run, as well as Tip-A-Cop, Polar Plunge at Castaic Lake and the Chili Cook-Off.

“These funds allow us to provide training for our athletes including all our local tournaments,” Mayo said. The all-volunteer aspect of events enables funds to go directly to supporting development, athletes’ expenses, workshops and conferences.

In addition to Special Olympics, the event will benefit Fueled by the Fallen Memorial Race Cars and the Police Unity Tour.

The annual Fun in the Sun Chili Cook-Off features 35 chili booths, 50-plus vendors, live music and an expanded Kids’ Zone 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Jack Bones Equestrian Center, 26983 Tapia Canyon Road in Castaic. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children 7 to 14 years with kids 6 and under free. Sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the event benefits Santa Clarita Special Olympics. Information: or


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