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Kiss Country Chili Cook-off: Know before you go

She'll work at her petting-zoo business on her birthday, New Year's Day, even Christmas. But there's one day Cherokee Reinman always takes off.

"The Chili Cook-off is an official holiday," says Reinman, of Hollywood. She says this will be her 22nd visit in the music festival's 29 years.

The day full of music, food and sunshine will return Sunday, Jan. 26, to C.B. Smith Park. For some people, it's a marathon party. Reinman often drives her Ford F-350 Super Duty as part of a caravan of trucks to a nearby parking lot before 1 a.m. One truck carries a barbecue, while another is packed with ice if the weather is going to be especially warm.

Then, they socialize, try to nap and, after the park's gates open at 8:30 a.m., race to stake out a spot near the stage, where this year they'll watch performers such as Rascal Flatts, Joe Nichols and Cassadee Pope.

Reinman usually brings a blanket that she won't mind discarding at the end of the day.

"People can't help it: They jump around and spill their drinks," she says. "I don't blame them. Everyone's drinks will be flying everywhere."

WKIS midday host Darlene Evans has been attending the Cook-off since 1988, two years after the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band headlined the first one. She has seen Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Alabama, Alan Jackson, Luke Bryan and Garth Brooks (who opened for Eddie Rabbit in 1990). She says the concert is now the largest country-music event in the Southeastern United States, with an audience capacity of 22,500.

"It's just a happening you have to go to," Evans says.

Of course, guests can no longer eat chili unless it's served by approved vendors. "Legal reasons," Evans says. "They've sucked the fun out of everything."

Almost 100 competitors will be cooking. "For me, it's like a big family reunion, a big holiday," the DJ says.

But it's a long day, and Reinman and Evans are cook-off veterans. Their tips include:

Rest up: Reinman says people who don't get any sleep while camping out at the parking lot the night before can feel wiped out before the headliner appears.

Don't overdrink: "You don't have to drink it all when you first get there," she says. "And mix in some water."

Don't wear new boots: "You can't move around, and you can't dance in them," Reinman says. "I broke that rule once and had to go barefoot."

Bring: Water, baby wipes, sunscreen and something to sit on, Reinman says. "And a credit card," Evans adds. "You can buy everything else you need there."

Kiss Country Chili Cook-off

Who: Rascal Flatts, Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett, Joe Nichols and Cassadee Pope

When: Sunday, Jan. 26. Gates open at 8:30 a.m., and the concert runs from about 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; the Pines Boulevard parking lot opens at 1 a.m. and the Taft Street lot opens at 6 a.m.

Where: C.B. Smith Park, 900 S. Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines

Cost: Tickets are sold-out, so check with your preferred secondhand ticket broker.


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