Family History Themed Chili Cookoff – Chiliology

Our unit has a chili cook off each year. In the past it has been an adults-only activity, but this year we decided to make it a family activity with a family history theme. It was fun! Here’s how we did it:

The Vision

I met with the other members of the Activities Committee to work out the kinks in our theme. We knew we wanted it to have a family-friendly theme, involve members young and old, and integrate our annual chili cookoff.

In the past we had used M&Ms dropped in cups in front of the chilis to vote, but we knew that wouldn’t work well with children. So, we used the coins leftover from our Christmas Night in Bethlehem activity the previous Christmas for voting. Each child and adult received a small ziploc bag with 5 gold coins in each and dropped them into a box with a small slit in the top to vote. That kept people from being tempted to move the coins around and also kept the number of votes secret and anonymous. Each person could decide if they wanted to put all 5 in one box, 1 in their five favorites, or some mixture in between.

In our discussion we also decided to include time for people to share a family history story of their choosing, a display area of family items, and a presentation on the new Family Search Indexing program.

We developed the following plan:

Initial Meeting Notes

WHAT: Family History Themed Chili CookOff – A “Chili”ology Celebration
WHO: Everyone, including children
DATE: March 19
TIME: 6:00 PM

Everyone is invited to bring family history items to display and can either bring chili for the competition or a family dessert. Please bring your recipes for the ward cookbook! (Our RS is starting a ward cookbook this year, and so we wanted to support them.)

(Each member of the committee was assigned one or more of the following items according to work schedules and preference.)

Paper Goods & Fritos
Reminder Emails
Chili registration paperwork
Ballot Boxes
Bagging of Coins
Kids’ Craft
Chili Coin Counter
Chili Registrar
Coin Passer-outer
Set Up – Everyone who can come during the day Friday, March 19

======PR / ANNOUNCEMENTS======
Feb 25 – first email (3.5 weeks before)
Feb 27 – Flyer in bulletin (3 Sundays before)and Sacrament meeting announcement
March 7 – Sac announcement (2 Sundays before)
March 14 – Sac announcement (Sunday before)
March 16 – Reminder email (midweek)

======DAY OF======
Set Up: Morning (chairs, tables, table covering, dessert plates, spoons, forks, LOTS of styrofoam cups, printouts of kids’ craft, printouts for chili judging, ballot boxes, awards, napkins, water pitchers, extension cord, table for Laptop, projector, screen, ribbons/awards, water pitchers, powerstrips – 4 )

(We decided to use super cheap styrofoam cups for chili tasting instead of bowls. They are less expensive and don’t spill as easily, since we knew children would be carrying them around.)

5:45 PM – begin accepting chili
6:00 PM – mingle/museum, final set up,
6:15 PM – opening prayer
6:55 PM – chili cook off judging ends, everyone invited to sit for program
7:00 PM – Instruct and help with children’s craft; committee counts coins for chili winners
7:15 PM – presentation on extraction/indexing program
7:35 PM – Chili winners announced
7:45 PM – Families share family stories
8:15 PM – Closing remarks by Bishop
8:20 PM – Closing Prayer / Clean Up

How it really went down

We ended up combining the activity with the Primary as a quarterly Primary activity, so the families sharing stories got expanded to include Primary children sharing talents. The presentation on indexing had to be removed because our planned speaker was out of town that week, and I didn’t get a replacement because I wasn’t sure how many Primary children would participate.

Those changes and a removal of the Bishop’s talk cut the activity down by an hour, and so the event went from 6:00-7:25. I was home after cleanup by 8:30.

I had worried people might not like getting out so early, but it turned out to be a good thing since the activity was on a Friday and we have so many with long commutes. We’ll aim for 1.5-2 hours if we do it again.

The entertainment and “museum” displays of people’s family history items turned out to be a lot of fun! It was especially exciting for members who contacted family back home to get information and learned new things to share with the group. Several really got excited reading their own histories. We had a prayer book from the 1700s, the family history chart of Rodeo Man Bill Pickett, lots of photos, and a plate from the Revolutionary War on display. My favorite display was a whole table with montages made out of Legos and children’s toys showing different family stories with short written descriptions, like battles with little tanks and one where the doctor and husband were locked out of the family cabin shouting instructions to a woman in labor inside!

Cost Breakdown

We bought about 500 8 oz. cups for a total of $11.00.

Roll of plastic to cover tables: $10

Spoons, $10

Dessert Plates, $10

1 large bag shredded Cheese, $8

5 bags Fritos, $17

3 Award ribbons, $6.50

Plastic party Coins – $25 (but they were free for us because we had them from the previous activity)

Ballot boxes – would have cost around $10 to make, including the wrapping paper and cardboard, but I had a bunch of that lying around

TOTAL: $80-$115 for 150 people


We got a good response from less active members and nonmembers who came out, and many of them participated by bringing items and really had good interaction with other members who asked lots of questions about what they displayed. The activity was inexpensive and didn’t require much in the way of decorations or setup. It took 4 women about 2.5 hours for the whole setup.

I’d definitely like to do it again!!! The one thing I wish I had done was give those who brought something to display a little time to talk about what they brought….. Next year!

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