Whether they were tasting chili samples, watching syrup being made, or cuddling up with an animal at the petting zoo — there were lots of ways for people to enjoy themselves at Raising Cane, a Sweet and Spicy Event, held on Jan. 12 at the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village in Dade City.
There was a Chili, Chili Verde and Salsa Competition, sanctioned by the International Chili Society, which offered cash and trophies for the first, second and third place winners.
And, there were two local chili challenges, with the City Chili Challenge featuring police chiefs, chamber executives and other local dignitaries. Also, there was a local chili challenge, which was open to anyone who wanted to put their chili or salsa to the test.
Event-goers could pay $5 for a tasting cup to sample and vote on their favorites from the two local chili challenges.
In addition, there was a Southern Syrup Makers Association Sugar Cane Competition, and there was a petting zoo, featuring baby chicks, rabbits, goats and a horse.
Those who enjoy music could listen to various bands, and could do a little dancing, too.
And, vendors offered a variety of goods.
In addition to the chili and syrup tasting, attendees could take a stroll through the Pioneer Museum to catch a glimpse of Florida life from a bygone era.
Chris LaBorde, director of research with the U.S. Sugar Corporation in Clewiston, and Wayne Davidson, an agronomist with the Florida Sugar Cane League, helped educate the crowd about sugar cane and passed out samples so people in the audience could compare texture and flavor.
Steve Melton, president of the Southern Syrup Makers Association, was there, sharing his knowledge about cane syrup.
Melton said that sugar cane syrup was the staple sweetener more than 100 years ago.
It was frequently used for cooking, and families usually kept a bottle on the table, he said. Its popularity waned over time because of the labor-intensive process needed to produce the finished product.
Perhaps the highlight of the day was a visit to the sugar cane mill to watch the labor-intensive process involved in making a batch of sugar cane syrup.
By Christine Holtzman
Published January 16, 2019