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Chili Weather: The SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-off Returns

The ninth annual SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-off returns Dec. 2 with bands, beers, and unique chili recipes

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Alex Matthews

San Diego, if you haven't noticed, chilly weather is officially upon us -- or is it chili weather?

On Sunday, Dec. 2, it'll be both as the ninth annual SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-off returns to the junction of South Park and North Park (32nd and Thorn streets, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) with the tried-and-true combo of chili, beer, and bands. 

For the last eight years, the fest has been quite the happening philanthropic endeavor -- helmed by an all-volunteer staff -- and that continues in 2018: 100 percent of the fest's proceeds go to the McKinley School Foundation to help support the North Park elementary school's international baccalaureate program and fund arts, music, ceramic, dance, garden, and Spanish programs. Sampling chili, downing brews, rocking out to bands and doing good in the community at the same time? It sounds almost too good to be true.

Thousands of hungry patrons are expected to take to the boulevard to try unique chili recipes (which range from meat-eater recipes to those for vegans and vegetarians) from 40 renowned San Diego foodie destinations such as Kindred, City Tacos, Anthem Vegan, Small Bar & Grill, Starlite, the Smoking Goat, the Friendly, Waypoint Public and many, many others.

They'll all be competing for first place in the fest's Ultimate Chili Smackdown and the opportunity to take their rightful place in its Chili Hall of Champions -- last year's Best Overall recipe went to Carnitas Snack Shack and Chef Hanis Cavin for his smoked rib-eye chili with beans, tomatoes, crispy cornbread croutons and aged cheddar (that sound you hear is my stomach grumbling). Which chili will rule them all this year? Only time will tell.

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And what goes better with chili than beer? Luckily for us, SoNo Fest has that covered, too: Ballast Point, Bitter Brothers Brewing Co., Fall Brewing, Green Flash, Mike Hess Brewing, Modern Times, Second Chance Beer Co., Societe Brewing Company and many more will be on hand pouring brews to the thirsty masses.

As if that weren't enough to get you out n' about, there’ll also be two different stages featuring some good, ol' fashioned rock n' roll bands (a few with more than a little bit of an Americana kick) lined up to perform that'll surely help you digest it all. The bill includes 12 local bands: Ypsitucky, the Bedbreakers, the Amandas, Shawn Rohlf & the Buskers, Alvino & the Dwells, the Downs Family, Ron & the Reapers, Mostly Sunny, Scary Pierre, Finnegan Blue, the Nards and San Diego’s perennial good-time party band the Creepy Creeps.

You might be wondering: How much is this grand ol' shebang gonna run me? Well, the event is absolutely free if you’d just like to show up and rock out to the music but for those interested in tingling those taste buds, you’ve got a few different options.

If you're looking to purchase tickets ahead of time, a SoNo Fest 2018 Logo taste mug and pass is available for $20 (plus service fee); a paper bowl and taster pass is available for $15 (plus service fee); or you can head over in person to the San Diego Ceramic Connection (3216 Thorn St.), one of the event’s main sponsors, to purchase one of their handmade ceramic bowls, which also come with a taster pass. The bowls are limited and they sell out, so pick 'em up soon. Otherwise, you can purchase tickets/mugs/passes at the event's main info booth on Dec. 2 until they're sold out.

For tickets and more info, visit

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