Chilifest 2018

Fans are invited to Texas A&M’s Reed Arena on Thursday at 4 p.m. to welcome Williams.

It’s time to bring the chili back to Chilifest.

With a new president, the two-day music festival — happening Friday and Saturday — is undergoing some changes in its 28th year, including an emphasis on the chili contest and additional transportation.

“We’re making a big push to bring the chili back to Chilifest,” said festival president Hunter Koch. “Since I’ve come on, I’ve heard ‘Where’s the chili at Chilifest?’ So, we’re trying to revamp that.”

As in the past, the first-place team chili contest winners will receive a $1,000 cash prize, but new this year, Chilifest organizers are matching the cash prize to give to a charitable organization of the winners’ choice. Also, second- and third-place winners receive $750 and $500, respectively.

In years past, chili contest winners won based solely on taste, but this year judges are using five categories: color, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste. Also new this year is implementation of nationally recognized chili competition rules, which can be found on the event’s website.

“We’re trying to make it a little more official,” Koch said. “We’ll have a big spot set up for everyone to see and hopefully come out and win some money.”

The music festival has become one of the biggest events in Brazos Valley. It draws about 35,000 people each year and has raised more than $3.5 million for local charities.

Last year, there were some changes to the music festival, including buses running from the event to Post Oak Mall in College Station for both days, which will continue this year. New this year is that any private busing must end at 9 p.m. Friday so that they don’t hold up the general bus line.

“We want to make sure everyone gets home safe,” Koch said. “People are still welcome and should find a safe ride to Chilifest.”

Also last year, festival organizers passed out RFID wristbands to not only track attendance, but also to register attendees for identification purposes, so that if there is a medical emergency, a medical crew knows who to contact or of any particular medical needs.

Pre-sale of alcohol and water also was implemented for the first time last year for Friday. Teams are encouraged to use the pre-sale service for convenience, improved safety and to raise more money for charity, Koch said. When the pre-sale was first introduced, there was some backlash from attendees who wanted to keep Friday as BYOB, so it was changed to be an option. That option continues this year on Friday, but Saturday will not permit BYOB — the same as in years past.

This year, musical performers include Koe Wetzel, Pat Green, Shane Smith & The Saints, Kody West, Kolby Cooper and John Hord on Friday. Saturday’s lineup is Kyle Park, Flatland Cavalry, Whiskey Myers, Randy Rogers Band and Cody Jinks.

“We try to determine who is going to draw out the biggest crowd,” Koch said. “We go through and figure out who’s popular and who our crowd enjoys. We always want to be growing and adding to the entertainment. … I’m really excited about all the artists, a lot want to look at our headliners, but the whole lineup is well-rounded. Everyone on the lineup is very talented and adds a lot to the Texas music scene.”

What sets Chilifest apart from other music festivals is the teams, Koch said. Teams are a group of at least 15 people who register to get a plot of land that acts like a home base to relax and have fun in between musical acts. They also get a discount on admission prices.

There are several admission options. A single general-admission ticket for Saturday’s concert costs $55; two-day general admission is $80. VIP tickets are available for $260. Chilifest Village seats are $115 for Saturday only or $150 for Friday and Saturday. Advantages for VIP and Village seats include catered food and drink and covered seating. Prices go up at the gate, so attendees are encouraged to buy online before the event.

“We’re excited to get everybody out to have another great year,” Koch said. “We welcome some great artists to the Brazos Valley, and we do everything we can to raise a lot of money for charity. Our goal for this year is to get around $200,000.”

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