February 25, 2017 will mark the twelfth annual Chilirhea. The first event was in 2004 as an excuse for a close group of friends to reunite after college. They wanted an annual occasion that would bring them back to Fayetteville for a great time, no matter where careers or families took them. They decided to hold a chili cook-off and so “Chilirhea” began.
The first Chilirhea had about 15 people in a backyard. By 2009, there were multiple sponsors, 15 teams and over 125 people gathered on the front lawn of a house despite snow and ice. In 2010, the event became tied to the charitable cause of helping cure Alzheimer’s. The friends decided to host an amazing party but also create a tool to give back to the community of NWA. There were 250+ people at Pratt Place Barn and over $6K was given to Alzheimer’s. In 2011, there were 25 teams, over 500 people and $12,000 was raised. In 2012 the event once again raised the bar raising over $20k Most recently, Chilirhea exceeded its $35k goal in 2014 by raising $37,000, beat its $40k goal in 2015 raising $70,000, and surpassed its goal of $75,000 in 2016 by raising $82,000!
Benefitting the families and those affected with Alzheimer’s and Dementia was an obvious choice. Several of the founding members have lost loved ones to the debilitating condition. Alzheimer’s is particularly hard on the family members, not to mention those affected directly.