Festival Review: KISS Country 99.9 Chili Cookoff Didn’t Disappoint

It was all about country music on Saturday, January 18, as Nashville’s finest took over South Florida’s music scene for a day filled with music, chili, beer and more music at the KISS Country 99.9 Chili Cook-Off. With a picture-perfect South Florida day, country music lovers showed up to show off off their eye-catching plaid shirts, denim jeans, and cowboy hats.

Kane Brown – Photo: Rick Munroe MFN

As one of the longest-running music festivals, the KISS Country 99.9 Chili Cook-Off celebrated 35 years in South Florida with over 20,000 country music fans who packed the grounds of C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines. The lineup was a robust collection of country music superstars including Kane Brown and Old Dominion and included plenty of up-and-coming acts such as Eli Young Band, Ryan Hurd, Travis Denning, Caylee Hammack, Noah Schnacky and Ryan Griffin.

Old Dominion – Photo: Rick Munroe MFN

Since the Chili Cookoff is only a one-day event, many made the most of it by getting the party started as early as possible. With parking gates opening just after midnight, those who could handle an all-nighter arrived with friends to tailgate with food and drinks while listening to music until the festival gates opened at 8:30. The early arrivals moved quickly to get a spot closest to the main stage where they could soak in the sights and sounds. The only issue that the Chili Cookoff struggles with year after year is the distance from the parking areas to the festival entrance. After a full day of fun in the sun, most dread the long walk through the 300 acre park to reach their cars.

As is usual with this festival, they featured the massive Ford-sponsored main stage along with the smaller covered and air-cooled Ford Blue Lounge, where if you signed up with a Ford representative, you were given a bracelet that granted access to the blue lounge. The more intimate blue lounge is where local bands performed, and it’s there that those who attended came away with experiences that will be memorable long after the music has ended. The homegrown talent included local South Florida favorite Bonn E. Maiy, whose set got started at 9 a.m., just as festival-goers began coming into the festival.

Along with other bands, up-and-comer Ryan Griffin played an intimate set of heartfelt songs for his closest fans, friends, and family. Griffin, who hails from nearby Davie, continues to evolve musically, has not only toured with Old Dominion, but spent some time working with Jason Aldean. Certainly he is someone to keep on your radar and see him flourish in the years to come.

The cookoff was more than just music; while many came for the food of choice, chili, there were plenty of other great eats typical for a music festival, including burgers, pizza, tacos, and pitas. To wash down all that goodness, the beverage of choice was beer and there was plenty of it. Those wanting to indulge in adult beverages had to show their ID when they entered the grounds and received an over-21 wristband that allowed them to purchase and consume. If you had any concerns about security, It should be noted that security was very tight for this event, from the minute you approached the entrance and all over the festival grounds, there was a sense of safety as security staff and local police made their presence well known. As fans found their place on the lawn, it was time to settle in for a day of country music.

The headliners did what everyone came for: they played the hits. The outpouring of emotion came in tears the moment headliner Kane Brown took the stage. As the crowd chanted “KB, KB, KB,” Brown stated he had never performed at 4:00 p.m. something new to him as he took the stage for the daytime-only festival. With fans screaming at ear-piercing levels, Brown immediately got into “Baby Come Back to Me” and continued through an 18-song set of new and old songs. As the sun began to fade, there was still some unfinished business before Kane could close out the night. Still, fans waited all day to hear his two biggest hits, “Heaven,” released in 2017 from his debut album Kane Brown, which the crowd sang in unison nearly word for word. To close out the set, Brown played perhaps his biggest hit to date that put him on the Nashville map, 2018 chart-topper “Lose it.” By the reaction of the crowd, the Georgia native has developed a fan base that will keep him relevant for years to come.

Eli Young Band – Photo Rick Munroe MFN

As a co-headliner, Old Dominion is no stranger to the Chili Cookoff, having performed on the very same stage just two short years ago, where they established themselves with South Florida’s country music fans. Clearly, this band has grown both musically and in terms of popularity in the past few years. Old Dominion has been racking up awards, having won the ACM award for Vocal Group of the Year in both 2018 and 2019. After an all day affair of music, chili and beer, the sounds of revelry filled the grounds when Old Dominion guitarist Brad Tursi took the stage, toasting the crowd red solo cup in hand. As the crowd went absolutely wild, the band opened with “Snapback,” a single from their 2016 debut album Meat and Candy. The second song, “Hotel Key,” while not one of the band’s bigger hits, did provide one fan a memorable moment when she gave lead singer Matthew Ramsey her hotel key. Ramsey held up the key as fans cheered and sang along. Old Dominion was on point; the music was tight with good instincts and timing. The band didn’t disappoint the thousands of Chili Cookoff fans as they played nearly every one of their big hits and mixed the songs well in their set.

Just like that, the 2020 Chili Cookoff was over. The beer trucks were empty and all the chili had been eaten. Perhaps the best part of attending the Chili Cookoff is the opportunity to experience a day of great music and a chance to connect with friends or perhaps make new ones. The memories created are ones that are talked about in the years to come as many of the artists they saw will go on to enormous careers in the country music business. As this year wraps up, organizers are already planning next year’s event.  If you missed it, don’t dispair as like the rest of us, we will be waiting for next years’ lineup announcement. There is no doubt that the Chili Cookoff will continue to be one of the best music festivals in South Florida. The KISS Country 99.9 Chili Cook-Off is a wrap!


Kane Brown Setlist

Baby Come Back to Me, What If, Weekend, Used to Love You Sober, Good as You, Learning
One Thing Right, Homesick, For My Daughter, Short Skirt Weather, Like a Rodeo, Gives You Hell
(The All‐American Rejects cover), Stand by me, Beautiful Girls Cover, Found You, Pull It Off, Heaven, Lose It

Old Dominion Setlist

Snapback, Hotel Key, Why Don’t You Leave With Me, Beer Can in a Truck Bed, Written in the Sand, Never Be Sorry, Not Everything’s About You, Break Up With Him, Midnight Mess Around, Song for Another Time, No Such Thing as a Broken Heart, Nowhere Fast, Some People Do, One Man Band, Smooth Sailing, Save It for a Rainy Day (Kenny Chesney cover), Make It Sweet

Eli Young Band – Photo: Rick Munroe MFN
Mike Eli of EDli Young Band – Photo: Rick Munroe
James Young of Eli Young Band – Photo: Rick Munroe MFN

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