You have permission to edit this article.

Mother Podolak’s Chili Contest moves to Wild Rose Jefferson

With Iowa State Fair paused, chili chefs can compete for a $1,000 first prize

  • 0

Mother Podolak’s Chili Contest has been a highlight for Iowa State Fair foodies for seven years, and even with the fair postponed until next year, contest sponsor Gary Kirke wasn’t about to let the fan-favorite Chili Contest simmer on the back burner until 2021.

“Our wonderful Iowa State Fair was canceled for 2020, but Mother Podolak’s Chili Contest is going full steam ahead,” said Kirke, founder of Wild Rose Casino & Resort. “Instead of the fairgrounds in Des Moines, it will be held on the Wild Rose Casino & Resort grounds in Jefferson.”

The contest will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, under a tent on the Wild Rose grounds in Jefferson. In order to comply with precautions related to COVID-19, the contest will be set up and judged outdoors. In case of inclement weather, the contest will move to the Greene Room Events Center at Wild Rose.

“The Chili Contest is such a highlight that we couldn’t let a year go by without hosting,” Kirke said. “Plus, this year we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of Wild Rose coming to Jefferson, so this is the perfect recipe for a savory celebration.”

The Mother Podolak Chili Contest is named after the mother of Kirke’s long-time friend and football standout, Ed Podolak. A star player for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, Podolak went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, which won the Super Bowl in his rookie year. His mother’s chili was a much-appreciated staple over the years at Hawkeye tailgates and in the press room.

Iowa celebrities joining Podolak in judging the contest are: ‘Voice of the Hawkeyes’ Gary Dolphin; Bobby Hansen, Hawkeye basketball commentator and former Chicago Bulls guard and NBA champion; as well as Chuck Offenberger, journalist and resident of Greene County, and former Des Moines Register Iowa Boy; and Iowa BaconFest Founder Brooks Reynolds.

All the delicious details for the 2020 Mother Podolak’s Chili Contest, including prize money, which has been doubled for this year, are below. All participants will receive a commemorative apron and other swag. Deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13.


First place: $1,000

Second place: $500

Third place: $150


1. Create a chili recipe, which must include beef and traditional chili spices.

2. Recipes need to be original.

3. Other proteins may be included, but beef must be the predominant protein.

4. Other ingredients such as beans, peppers, etc. may be added at the contestant’s discretion.

5. No toppings or garnishes may be included.

6. Entries will be judged on taste (40%), appearance (30%), and creativity (30%).


1. Entry fee is $20 on Wild Rose Jefferson Tix page.

2. Enter contest via website. Entry due date: Thursday, Aug. 13, by 5 p.m.

3. Wild Rose will assign participant an exhibitor’s number.

4. All chilis must be presented in a slow cooker (such as a Crock-Pot) with exhibitor’s number.

5. Chili must be checked-in at Wild Rose Jefferson by 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15.

6. Chili must include printed recipe; do not include name on the recipe (only use exhibitor number).

7. Maximum number of entries is 50.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.