The Lake County Firefighters Charity Chili Cookoff and BBQ Competition will be held on Saturday, January 19th. The 501C3 charity will be hosting its event for the 6th year at Gator Harley Davidson in Leesburg. The event is a fundraiser for the Firefighters Charity to help provide treatments for local firefighters enduring PTSD or cancer treatment expenses. Brian Gamble, President of the Firefighters Charity, said the event started about 6 years ago and has grown each year. “This Chili Cookoff and BBQ Competition is one of our biggest events of the year” according to Gamble. “We do many other events such as a toy drive and toy store at Christmas time to help Lake County families that may be struggling. We also host Turn Lake County Pink each October and our pink fire truck tours stops in Lake County and selling our pink uniform shirts to raise money for local cancer programs”.

The Lake County Firefighters Charity was established in 2012 to help give back to the community. “We see people at their worst when we are on emergency calls and we wanted to be able to establish a way to help our community at a local level, and our charity was born.” After years of building the charity and events, the charity board decided it was time to take care of firefighters too. “Sometimes the rescuers need rescuing too. I have seen our guys and girls go through tough times with battling PTSD, cancer and other major medical issues. Insurance doesn’t cover everything, and most times they can be out of work for an extended period of time too. So we established our Florian Fund to help create a way to help ease the financial burden for local firefighters that experience issues” Gamble explains. The fund was named after St. Florian, the protector saint of firefighters.

Over 28 teams are signed up to compete in the Chili Cookoff and BBQ Competition for over $2,500 in cash prizes and trophies. Gamble states “It’s a great mixture of competitors from your back yard amateurs to some teams that compete on a professional level”. The best part of all, the public is able to sample and judge the chili and BBQ. There are also judges choices in the BBQ and Chili scoring that has a panel of judges tasting the entries from all the teams. Celebrity Chef Joel Padilla is volunteering to help in the judges scoring. Chef Padilla owner of Platinum Chef Empingao has been in the industry for over 14 years. He has established many successful concepts and notably has worked with The Food Network managing their food and wine shows. Chef Padilla has established nutritional programs in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of Central FL and has worked with the like of Gordon Ramsey’s, Bobby Flay, and Rachel Ray just to name a few. When it comes to competition, he is no stranger – the chef has won best mac & cheese two years in a row along with the best burger in Orlando beating out all major chains in central FL. But you don’t have to be a professional chef to judge – everyone gets to be a judge for only a $10 donation, you receive a wrist band and the rights to sample and vote on the chili and BBQ pork you think is the best.

The event features a free afternoon concert with headliner, the Bobby Friss Band rocking out to classic rock and other favorites. The morning features the Limited Sounds of Dennis with songs from the 60’s and 70’s.

The event is being expanded this year with a large kid’s area featuring games, bouncy houses, soccer darts, an obstacle course and more. Plus a fire truck for the children to touch and take pictures with.

Gates open at 10 am for shopping from vendors,  live music, plus a full bar and hot and fresh food grilled up by your local firefighters, including their famous firehouse chili available to take home. For a full event schedule, visit


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