Breathes there an Arkansan with Rotel on hand, who never to himself hath said, let's make cheese dip? No, Sir Walter, there's not: All Arkansans eat cheese dip, by the bucketsful, and we're all experts on how it should be made. We even claim that it was invented in Arkansas. So when the fourth World Cheese Dip Championship comes to the Bernice Garden on Saturday, Oct. 25, the competition will be fierce. It will be widespread, too, with a team from San Francisco trying to persuade us mavens of cheese dip (and cheese drip) that the West Coast can do queso.
The championship benefits the Harmony Health Clinic, 201 E. Roosevelt Road, which offers free medical and dental care to lower income folks. That means, for possibly the first time, you, festivalgoer, will be eating Velveeta — or maybe Kraft American — to improve health. The last competition, in 2012, brought in more than $12,000 to the clinic.
A panel of judges, including Facebook contest winner Kenneth Freeman of Bryant, Capi Peck, Mary Thweatt, Brian Deloney, Scott McGehee, Brooke Talley and the Times' Max Brantley, will award $1,000 prizes and trophies to the Big Dipper winners in the professional and amateur categories. Festivalgoers will choose the People's Choice Award winner using something new: Instead of paper ballots, they'll get wooden vote chips (two chips with each admission, extra chips available for sale for $1) to put in their choice's box. The People's Choice winners in both pro and amateur categories each will get $500 and a trophy. There will also be a trophy awarded to the best booth theme and design.
Dizzy's has won the professional Big Dipper in the last two competitions. The ConcheeZtadors won the 2012 amateur category. They are both returning. At press time, other contestants included Tacolicious from San Francisco, U.S. Pizza, Scallions, On the Border, Twin Peaks, Homers, the Main Cheese, Chef's Little Hut, One Cheesy Couple, Purple Cow, The Afterthought, Whole Foods Market, Mitchell Williams Law Firm, Colson Oil Roadrunner stores, EJ's Eats and City Year.
The festival, sponsored by the Southern Cheese Dip Academy, runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bernice Garden, at the southeast corner of 14th and South Main streets. Admission is $8 in advance, $10 at the gate. Chips for dipping will be provided. There will be water for $1, sodas for $2, beers for $3 and premium beers for $4.
Coincidentally, this festival celebrating one of the best hangover cures known to man comes the day after the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival (6-9 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Argenta Farmers Market Grounds, $35 advance, $40 day at the door).CORRECTION: This item originally said Jo Garcia of the Arkansas Times staff was a member of the ConcheeZtadors. That is incorrect. There also was a typo in the ConcheeZtadors' name.