The 40th annual Thousand Oaks Chili Cook-Off & Classic Car Show was held on April 24th, and it was a rousing success. When you can get to the 40th annual of ANYTHING, that’s pretty special – when it’s a Rotary fundraiser that’s gone this long, that’s extra special – and when 100% of the proceeds go to local charities, you’ve got an event that goes to the top of the “must-go-to” list.
For the first time, this well-attended event was held at Conejo Creek Park North, right across the street from our previous venue.  We couldn’t have found a better location. The sprawling park grounds with its trails, bridges, meandering creek and sparkling lake was the perfect setting. If it was too warm for some, there was the shade of the tall oak trees and covered picnic areas. A cool partly cloudy morning gave way to bright blue skies and a gorgeous sunny afternoon.
So while being a great fundraiser in spectacular surroundings, it was loads of fun, too. With plenty of tasty chili, great food and drink, an endless array of classic cars, a spirited Kids Zone, and three stages of non-stop music and entertainment, one would be hard pressed to find anyone not smiling.
With “chili” in the name, you’d be correct in assuming the amount chili to sample would be bountiful. More than forty chili booths had lines snaking everywhere. An International Chili Society (ICS) sanctioned event, the cooks took their chili seriously. Between the ICS approved judges, and the general public as critics, there were hard choices to make with the peak quality of chili on display.
The line-up of Classic cars was no less impressive. When you see the parade of cars with ages that span several decades, you know these car owners have good reason to be beaming. When you see the endless polishing with some car aficionados using Q-tips to be extra pristine, you know you’re not just looking at older, restored cars, but ones with a rich history and a pride of ownership.
Then there was the music. Three stages to be exact. Run by the two sponsoring Rotary Clubs, and the popular destination, Borderline Bar & Grill, the music went on throughout the day. From several local favorite bands to the greatly anticipated featured group, Cover 2 Cover (covering all the hits, of course), an abundance of good vibes were spread all around. To close out the day, throngs delighted to the sounds of SouthBound, one of the best Allman Brothers tribute bands in the country.
In between the music there was a fashion show and a troupe of Shakespearean players. And we can’t forget the day’s opening with the Thousand Oaks High School marching band.
What else? There was the endless fun for the younger crowd at the Kids Zone. There were the bungie running, the inflatable climbing bounce house that resembled a horse, the petting zoo, the face painting, the ring toss, and the arts & crafts, just to name a few (or in this case, a lot). And we know the Kids Zone was also appreciated by the parents, as well.
The triumph of this family-fun event was achieved through the tireless efforts (maybe we’re a little tired) of the all-volunteer teams that are comprised of members and friends of the Thousand Oaks and Conejo Valley Rotary Clubs. Add to that the generous support of a multitude of local sponsors eager to give back to their community, and you’ve got a recipe for great success. For those that helped and participated, you have a lot to be proud of.
And for those that missed it, there’s always next year – Sunday, April 30th, 2017 to be exact.