by Danielle Brown, Staff Writer

Football on every monitor, the aroma of hot chili and the sound of light conversation embodied the Beach Break bar in Pensacola Beach Sunday afternoon.

The Krewe of Bananimals filled the bar wearing Saints gear waiting to sample chili from 20 participants who had entered the cook-off.

“This is a huge event for us this year,” said Nick Radcliffe, 2018 King and President of Krewe of Bananimals. “We had people coming to us wanting to be vendors here today.”

The Krewe has been up for 26 years and the cook-off is in its fourth year running. Radcliffe said there are no rules when it comes to what can be put in people’s chili in terms of beans and meats.

With “Rude, Crude, and Socially Unacceptable” as their motto, Krewe of Bananimals are not shy about sharing their chili-making secrets.

“Chili with liquor infused in it always makes it better,” cook-off contestant and krewe member Pam Jewell said. “Whether it’s beer or whatever, it’s like you’re making it your own. Anytime you can infuse liquor in your food, that’s how you can make it special.”

Prizes were given out to the first, second and third place winners, but Jewell said the real prize is the bragging rights and that no one really cares about the prizes.

“It’s funny too because the majority of the entries are not even krewe members,” Radcliffe said. “They’re people that saw our advertising online for it.”

Dara Flanagan, a director on the board of the Krewe, said some contestants go above and beyond other contestants’ efforts when making their chili.

“They grow their own tomatoes and their own chilis,” Flanagan said, referencing the winners of the past two years of competition who had entered again. “They’re in it to win it, for sure.”

The Krewe prides themselves on their donations to local charities, with most of their profit coming from water bottle sales at Blue Angels’ events. Last year, they raised $14,000 from selling water bottles at the air show and donated it to the Santa Rosa Kids House.

“We are just a party Krewe,” Radcliffe said. “The side effect is the philanthropy that we do, so when we have extra funds left over, we send them to a charity.”

Flanagan and Radcliffe said the krewe is full of people from all over the world with a few members in Canada and Germany, and that the group is like one big family.

On Feb. 16 at 7 p.m., Krewe of Bananimals plans to have their 2019 Grand Ball at Bamboo Willie’s. Admission will be $25 and there will be heavy hors d’oeurves, a cash bar, photo booth and live music by Horseshoe Kitty.

“We’ve been really trying to get some young members, and the college crowd would be perfect,” Radcliffe said.

The fee to join Krewe of Bananimals is $50 dollars a year, which, Radcliffe said, is the cheapest of all of the krewes at Pensacola Beach.

“Whether you’re a member or not, come on and party with us,” Flanagan said.