Kids and adults alike love a good chili cook-off. Entering a chili cook-off makes for quality family time, as you and the kids can work together to perfect your best (and spiciest) chili recipe. At the same time, presentation counts in a chili cook-off. To make your chili really sizzle, have your kids help you decorate your booth to attract the most attention possible. Before you can do this, of course, you need to choose a theme for your booth, which will guide your decorations, and might even help you win first prize.
Chili makes a quick and easy meal when you're outdoors, so consider decorating your booth with out outdoorsy theme. Try a farmer theme to evoke the earthy ingredients that go into any good chili. Hang raw ears of corn on the walls, as well as chili peppers strung together. Have your kids dress up in overalls and cowboy hats. Alternatively, use a camping theme, which is one locale where chili is often eaten. Set up a large tent in your booth, and invite "customers" in to sample your chili in plastic bowls or cups.
If you are proud of how spicy your chili is, use your booth theme to express it to the public. If you want to get a good laugh from the judges, dress up with your kids as giant chili peppers. You can also place a fire extinguisher on the table, and have your kids draw pictures of flames to put up around the booth. To help those who find your chili too spicy, have pitchers of ice water on hand to put out the flames in their mouths.
A scary motif might be less easily related to a chili cook-off, but it's an easy one to do, given the availability of Halloween decorations and costumes for your kids. It also allows you to have fun with the chili. Dress up as a witch, and serve your chili out of a giant cauldron, or the biggest pot you can find. Tell tasters that they are eating your scary chili filled with a witch's ingredients: eyeballs, toads, brains and anything else you might imagine.
Pop Culture Themes
Using a theme from popular culture is a great way to attract attention to your booth, and to get your kids to participate. Ask your kids what their favorite movie or TV show currently is, and use it to address your theme. Have your kids dress up as characters from the movie or TV show, and decorate the booth using pictures from it. Try to find a movie or TV show that involves food or eating in its plot or title.