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Swindon turns up the heat as the Chilli Fiesta crowns a new champion

Monday 01 Aug 2016

Swindon turns up the heat as the Chilli Fiesta crowns a new champion

CROWDS flocked to the town centre on Saturday for the third annual Swindon Chilli Fiesta.

Chris Humphreys, Reporter Swindon Advertiser /    Photos by Pete Wilson 

Wharf Green was packed out with stalls offering chilli beer, chilli dips, chilli barbecue, chilli cocktails… in fact if there is anything you can imagine putting chilli on there is a good chance it was on offer.

Ahead of the event, organisers warned people not to expect hot dogs, chips or burgers, instead they said: “We are about chilli - so if you want go from one part of the universe to another on chilli power that’s is exactly what will happen.”

 Photo by Pete Wilson The hundreds who made the trip into town were not disappointed – with the sun shining down they toured the stalls all afternoon testing their bravery as well as their taste buds.

Organiser, Alexander Mustang, said: “It’s always a great event here, it’s getting bigger and better every year.”

As 3pm approached, the crowds packed in front of the stage for the big event, the Chillifest UK Clash of the Titans – a contest to crown Swindon’s king of chilli eating for 2016.

As host Jack Baverstock introduced the twelve contestants, there was one name that stuck out.

Allan Catlin, winner in 2014 and last year’s runner up, had returned to claim his title.

However he was to have some tough competition in the form of a soldier, a fiercely competitive father and son duo, a man who claimed to have an “asbestos mouth” and a seasoned American chilli-contest veteran.

As the first round got underway there were early signs that some of the entrants had bitten off a little more than they could chew – the crowd roared with laughter as Barry Ponting took to crying, shaking, bouncing and even dancing in an effort to suppress the fire burning in his mouth.

There were a few early drop outs, including Allan Catlin who some had tipped to take back the title.

Then, as the chillies got bigger and the fire began to burn hotter they started to fall like flies – there was a surrender from the soldier, last year’s runner up decided this wasn’t his year and a defeated son let dad win the family contest.

And then there were two.

America versus Great Britain. US Airman Ron Hoon from Pennsylvania against Neil Childs from West Wales.

Together they battled through two winner takes all rounds of the Carolina Reaper – the world’s hottest chilli!

But just as the next chillies were being handed out there was a victory for the Brits – Ron had thrown in the towel.

Speaking, just about, after his victory, 29-year-old winner Neil said: “It’s burning, killing, my stomach is in bits.

“I was hoping I’d get mid-way through, it’s my first contest – and my last.”

For runner up Ron, serving with the US Air Force and based at RAF Croughton, it was a small victory as he bettered his previous highest result of third.

“When my vision started to get blurred I knew it was over,” he said.

Asked how it compared to an authentic American contest he added: “I’m taken aback, this is the worst one I’ve ever done.”


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