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Big Chili will be cooking at Buchanan Park this year

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Major event decides to move from Evergreen Lake

By Sandy Barnes

Tantalizing aromas from the Big Chili Cook-off will drift across Buchanan Park this year rather than the traditional venue at Evergreen Lake Park.

“Because we are growing by leaps and bounds, we decided to move to Buchanan Park,” said Theresa Cook of Blue Spruce Kiwanis, the service organization sponsoring the 13th annual event taking place on Sept. 7.

“At Buchanan, we’re going to have so much more room,” Cook said. “We’ll still have our great cooks.”

This year’s recently hired event director, Lora Knowlton, was the catalyst for the move from the Lake Park to Buchanan.

After meeting with Scott Robson, executive director of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, and his staff, Knowlton said she learned of the challenges involved with holding the event at the Lake Park.

“It is not a good venue for the event,”  Knowlton said. “It was creating some negative community feedback.”

In recent months, Evergreen residents and business owners have complained about traffic congestion around Evergreen Lake, and also about overuse of the park — especially during high-volume events such as the Big Chili Cook-off, which draws thousands of attendees.

In response, Robson had decided to permit the event at the Lake Park for one more year, and then move Big Chili to another district park in the future.

However, after Blue Spruce Kiwanis hired Knowlton, she suggested moving the event this year.

“One of my specialties is logistics and layout,” said Knowlton, owner of Current Events in Littleton.

Robson and EPRD staff were positive about the change after reviewing her plan and making some adjustments, she said.

“Bottom line, it’s very exciting,” Knowlton said about holding Big Chili at Buchanan Park.

The Big Chili Cook-off is a fund-raiser for area fire departments including Evergreen, Indian Hills and Inter-Canyon. The event also generates funds for other charitable endeavors of Blue Spruce Kiwanis.

Knowlton has much experience directing large community events, including the annual Summerset Festival at Clement Park in Littleton, which she said she has been perfecting over the years. She also directs the Colorado Irish Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, events at Bandimere Speedway and the Old Glory Antique Fair.

In addition to event planning, Knowlton has spent summers working on fire suppression crews in Washington.

“Lora doesn’t only bring a quality to the event by being our director, but she also has her heart behind the many men and women who volunteer and put their lives on the line for our safety,” Cook said.

“Lora knows and embraces the need to support our community and local fire departments,” Cook added.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.