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Cook-off will be without alcohol, without cook-off

Thousands are expected for Saturday's Virginia Chili Cook Off at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds

By Ryan Cornell

All the beer you could drink for $30.

What was once a major selling point for the Virginia Chili Cook Off, scheduled for the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds on Saturday, is now gone from all of its advertisements and promotions.

Similarly gone is the chili that one might expect at such an event. After failing to obtain a license through the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control or a temporary food permit through the county's health department, the sold-out cook-off, which features 30-some heavy metal bands, will offer neither alcohol nor chili.

Because of the missing license, people won't be allowed to bring their own bottles inside the fairgrounds, although Fairgrounds General Manager Tom Eshelman said there will be several food vendors at the site offering barbecue, pizza, burgers and hot dogs.

Eshelman said the Christian ministry organizing the cook-off, "Rock with a Purpose," had originally billed it as a bottomless-beer-mug event -- the proceeds of which would be donated to breast cancer research and awareness -- but he had to tell the group it couldn't legally serve alcohol at the fairgrounds because it isn't a registered 501c3 charity.

He said the group pulled the information about its bottomless beer off of its website the next day and refunded the people who had already purchased tickets.

The Daily was unable to reach the event promoters for comment on Thursday.

Dr. Charles Devine III, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, explained that the application process for a temporary food permit, which is required to provide food to the public at an event, is a simple one.

He said vendors could either fill out the forms at a department office or call to ask for a scan of the form. There is a $40 fee attached to the application, he said, but the permit lasts for a year.

"Generally we ask for the applications to be in 10 days before the event," he said.

When the department had not received any applications for the cook off, Devine said he emailed each of the scheduled vendors on Oct. 2 and advised them of the permit process.

"Even though the 10-day period had elapsed, we would work with them," Devine said. "We got two responses back. One said 'No thank you' and declined to participate. The other just said, 'Thank you.'"

Eshelman said the impact on the Woodstock community has been massive, from the filled hotel rooms to the spike in local grocery stores and gas stations. At first, the cook-off had only anticipated 2,000 attendees, but had to cap their ticket sales at 5,000 people.

"There's no chili or beer, but for an affordable price [$10], you're going to see 30 heavy metal bands," Eshelman said.

"You don't have too many opportunities to hear this kind of music here," he said.

According to the event's website, vachilicookoff.com, gates open at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Some of the bands noted on the site include Sevendust, 10 Years, Adam Gontier - former lead singer of Three Days Grace, Trapt, Saliva, Dope, Nonpoint, Soil, Taproot, Smile Empty Soul, Hurt, Dive, Super Bob, Another Lost Year and Almost Kings.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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