OGDEN -- Nobody, just nobody in the cookoff at the first Hispanic Heritage Fiesta on Saturday would say their chili was hot. Not scorching not. Not burn-your-tongue-to-cinders hot. Not even 'you might want water' hot.
"It doesn't have to be hot to be good," said Eden chili cook Ted Grosgebauer, sniffling, as he chopped the onions on a table on the second deck of Lindquist Field.
But hot, as any chili-lover would tell you, is on the tongue of the beholder.
Grosgebauer and the other potential chili champions gathered near the scoreboard of the minor league ballpark in the very early morning to begin cooking their entries for the festival.
On deck for the day was not only the chili cookoff but an array of activities around the stadium that included live music, booths and more food.
The ballpark and the festival organizers had decided to sponsor a new street fair to honor seven Latin American countries -- Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile -- that all achieved independence during the week of Sept.15.
"It's an outreach, a way to gather all the Hispanic community," said festival organizer Leticia Arriaga.
But long before any festival attendee started hunting for cotton candy or a deal on a T-shirt, David Schindel of Ogden and his mom, about sunrise, had hauled up their beans and spices to the cooking area.
Why so early?
"It's the dry beans that need the cooking," said Pam Schindel, David's mom.
The Schindels and Grosgebauer, cooking side by side, said they are both past winners at other cook-offs. Both claim to have secret ingredients that will 'wow' the judges.
But two Ogden rookies, Veronica Garcia and Polo Santiago, stirring their pots nearby make no such claim.
"I love her chili," said Andrew Garcia about his wife's entry, a first attempt at going for the chili gold. Her 'secret' ingredient? Soy sauce, they answered.
As the morning progressed, the smell of chili sauces blended-in with the normal hot dog fare at the park. The concession stands were open, but no chili dogs were on the menu.
Santiago's two boys ran the stadium steps as the construction worker worked his magic on an entry he described as "mild" in flavor.
"I'm always looking for authentic flavor," Santiago said as he arranged a Mexican display of salsa, spices and knickknacks on his table.
By noon, the judges strolled over to taste.
"It's got to light me up, just a little," said Carl Schrank of Riverton as he prepared to spoon up the meaty soup.
In the end, it was Santiago who walked away with the title "Best Overall" chili.
But Veronica Garcia's grandfather, Eloy Martinez, quietly pointed out he liked it hot, too.
"It makes you live longer, when it's hot, my grandfather told me." Martinez said.
As the festival around them picked up speed the chili artists left the park, the last rays of the summer sun beating down on them as they packed up. A warm day for September, meteorologists said.
"Muy Picoso, really hot," Santiago said.