Kiss Country’s annual Chili Cook-off, now in its 28th year, will be less crowded this year.
After last year’s show drew an unprecedented number of fans — and complaints about overcrowding — the station cut back on the number of tickets it’s selling and made changes to its parking and ticket system for Sunday’s show.
The all-day bash includes a hearty helping of country music featuring Luke Bryan, Ronnie Dunn, Thompson Square, Florida Georgia Line and Kacey Musgraves, a side of chili — competition that is — and a whole lot of partying.
Bryan, who performed at last year’s Cook-off and recently took home nine American Country Music Awards, will sing hits including Drunk on You and I Don’t Want This Night to End.
This year’s show, which is already sold out, will be limited to about 20,000 country music and chili fans, down from nearly 30,000 last year.
“There were a lot of people there,” said Annie Sandor, who handles marketing and promotions for the radio station. “It was probably a little too many people to fit in the park.”
People were perched in trees or on one another’s shoulders trying to get a glimpse of the stage. With so many people packed into the park, aisles were non-existent. Cars trying to enter the park sat in traffic jams for hours. Guests waited in line more than an hour at the will-call line to get pre-purchased tickets.
This year, there will be no will-call line, and only people with tickets will be allowed to enter and tailgate.
Nalini Toolsie, 28, who has been going for the last five years, said she almost didn’t go this year because of last year’s crowd.
“One of the reasons I got my ticket was because they were selling fewer tickets,” said Toolsie, who lives in Plantation.
With the show already sold out, many fans were scrambling to get their hands on last-minute tickets. On Craigslist, a pair of tickets that sold for $90 originally were going for as much as $400.
For South Florida country music fans, the Chili Cook-off is more than a concert. People show up as early as 1 a.m. to tailgate inside C.B. Smith Park. Tailgating will begin at 1 a.m. at the Pines Boulevard entrance and at 5:30 a.m. at the Taft Street entrance. Concert gates will open at 8:30 a.m. and the show runs from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Even with the smaller number of people expected, Pembroke Pines police sent a warning. “If they are not going to the concert, they are going to want to avoid the park area,” said Pembroke Pines Sgt. John Grazzano.