Saturday, May 3, 2003

2003: Preparing for the cookoff (part 1)

The greatest chili cookoff team on Earth presents the Greatest Show on Earth - the secret behind-the-scenes look at how Surfin' Chili gets ready for the JSC Chili Cookoff using time-honored traditions.

April 27, 2003: C minus one week and counting....

The weekend before the cookoff is the Tie-Dye and Propaganda Party. We start out with pristine white t-shirts emblazoned with the Surfin' Chili logo, and use rubber bands or string to section off parts of the shirt. Then we use squeezee bottles of RIT dye to drop the ink precisely (more or less) where we want. That's a far cry from the early days when we would dip the shirt segments into the bucket of dye.

While the shirts are drying, we start on the propaganda portion. We sit down with a stack of old magazines and take out pictures that we think would be good with funny captions. During the week we'll trim the edges, paste them on construction paper, and print out the captions with the Surfin' Chili web address. We also write down ideas that have come up for the skit, and think of "Burma-Shave" sign gags. After that, we'll know how many pieces of posterboard and other supplies we'll need.

2003: Preparing for the cookoff (part 2)

April 30, 2003: C minus three days and counting....

The Wednesday before the cookoff is when propaganda is allowed to be put up at JSC. Things are much tamer than they used to be, with people rapelling off the roof of Bldg 1 to post signs outside windows, or disassembling and then reassembling a VW in the Bldg 4 lobby, or even leaving kegs of beer outside certain officials' offices. These days, the windows, walls, and doorways are covered with fliers, and the roadsides have all manner of signs.

Here are some of Surfin' Chili's fliers:

2003: Preparing for the cookoff (part 3)

May 2, 2003: C minus one day and counting....

The day before the cookoff is the pre-cookoff propaganda, booth setup followed by the Cut-Up Party.

The Showmanship judges have a pre-cookoff meeting where teams can serenade them, perform skits, or anything else they think would win them favor. For 2003, a number of the team members discussed the upgraded Jello-shot Delivery System (JDS) v1.1.

2003: Preparing for the cookoff (part 4)

At the end of the day, we grab the booth, stacked neatly in my garage each year, load it in a couple pickup trucks, and haul it over to the Gilruth Center for setup. It's done in a couple of hours.

The "before" picture.

First, frame the base and put in the support structure.

Then put in the floor.

Add a couple of walls, which fit into pre-cut slots in the floor.

Next, install the balcony floor, which gives the walls support.

Put up the front of the booth and add the ladder in back.

Install railings in front and on the balcony.

The main part of the booth is complete!

Start putting up the thatched roof support beams.

Behind the booth, our tent is set up.

Add thatched roof, using discarded palm fronds.

Install Jello Shot Dispenser, surfboards, bikinis, and trophies
(done on the day of the cookoff).

Last but not least, install team!.

Once we're done with the booth, it's over to the Cut-Up Party, where we distribute the shirts that we made last week, polish off the skit and assign parts, cut up the meat and veggies, and make the jello shots.

2003: Too Far From Reality

Another year, another Showmanship trophy. Our 6th second place finish this time, our ninth trophy in 14 competitions. A fall to second place in Space Trivia - after four straight first place finishes - probably hurt.

Our skit this year - "Too Far From Reality" - featured our usual cast of characters: Christiane Armand-Bayou, Pat McGroin, and the Chili News Network. The big story, of course, was the ongoing war in Iraq, which by this time had seen US forces enter Baghdad. The prime target for skewering was the Iraqi Information Minister who insisted (among other things) that "Everything is OK". Geraldo Rivera, Elvis, the Public Affairs Office, the new security barricades at JSC, and the recent email server problems all made appearances of sorts.

Tom and Steph updated the Jello-shot Delivery System to JDS 1.1. It was very helpful in our annual Jello Shot Twister game

Spoons - a disappointing non-top-3 finish.

At least the tattoos were a hit, though.

Bombing run!
T - E - A - M, Teeeeeeeeeam drink! (Tim's the devil)

They didn't like our chili this year either. What a surprise.

On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the JSC Chili Cookoff, the organizers created a plaque to honor "Grand Poo-Bah" George Abbey, the who has been involved with the cookoff since the beginning. When they asked around for photos of Abbey, I remembered that as Center Director at the time, he had a photo op at our booth in 1998 with Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Beaumont, TX). The original photo has gotten misplaced somewhere, but a scan is on the Surfin' Chili web page.

George Abbey with the plaque

The original print from 1998

A closeup of the image from the plaque

Surfin' Chili 2003