LAKELAND, FLA., NOV. 1-4–The 27th annual Roscoe’s Chili Challenge was on the calendar for the first weekend in November as usual, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it this year due to some surgery I’d recently had. However, with a purse of $2,000 and the other events on the schedule, I knew I was going to make a darned good effort of limping my way around one of the best parties in Central Florida. Roscoe’s isn’t necessarily a biker event since there are plenty of non-riders who attend, as well. They show up in cages, RVs and various modes of transport. But no matter how you get there, one thing is certain—if you’re going to Roscoe’s you have to keep an open mind and not be surprised or embarrassed by anything. Maybe that’s why it is so popular in the riding community, though, because most of us have pretty much seen it or done it at least once. Of course, all the riotous frivolity contained inside the compound is for adults only and is advertised as such. Only a few rules are mandated—no kids, no weapons and you must have fun.
I wasn’t able to stay the entire weekend but not wanting to miss out on the full day of adventure, I headed down on Saturday morning with a gal friend to see what kind of mischief we could get into. When I arrived there wasn’t much of a wait and as I checked in with the registration table, I noticed there wasn’t a sign of life presenting itself in the camping area. Obviously the party went late the night before and everyone was still trying to muster up the energy to find their first cup of coffee.
Since things were slow to start this morning, we made a stroll by the vendor tents with their displays of everything from 35 kinds of jerky to biker adornments to leather loincloths. I quickly decided there was nothing I couldn’t live without or didn’t already have holding its place on my credit card and headed across the field to one of the most popular vendors, the body-painting hut. This is always one of the most crowded sections, which can be attributed to the huge number of spectators hoping to get a glimpse of a gal’s boobs before they get covered in paint. And it seems the gals are much braver each year. Once they decide to indulge, it’s only a short time before they are running around posing for photographs for anyone with or without a camera. But with the guys, it takes a few more shots of courage before they are ready to get their bodies painted in some exotic display of color. Then, as the day progresses (along with the number of beers consumed), these shy males begin to appear… slowly at first and then as people start to take pictures, become emboldened and start to strut around like little peacocks.
After witnessing enough painted bodies (and some I wished I could erase from my memory), I went to go find some friends I knew would be camping back in the South 40, my friends the COBBers (Crippled Old Biker Brothers). They camp in the same general area each year and continue to establish their own little community setup, similar to a Western stockade waiting for an Indian attack. And sure enough, once I crossed the bridge, took a slight right, and then a hard left, there they were! With campfire blazing and a big circle of chairs, friends were just kicking back and enjoying the nice weather in what they have tagged as their “COBB-eraderie.” But soon the visit with my friends was cut short, as the announcement came over the PA system for the start of the bike games.
The field events are always fun and what was even more of a sight was the appearance of the walking dead as they slowly appeared and began to form a line about four bodies deep around the exhibition area. I managed to squirm my way into a spot explaining that I was with the “press” (I love it when my little badge comes through for me like that) and prepared to watch the fun. A few contestants in the slow race obviously had trouble with the concept of the word ”slow,” but I can understand that. And the “slow race with a partner” was interesting, as well, in that some of the participants decided to have the gal ride facing them, straddling the gas tank, which gave a whole new perspective as to what they were trying to focus on.
The wienie bite contest is another old favorite. It’s always fun to watch the gals who usually miss the wienie altogether and get slapped in the face with the mustard-coated dog and end up wearing most of it. I was amazed that a few of the female contestants didn’t fall backwards off the bike in their eager quest to get a mouthful of tube steak.
The outhouse races were last on the agenda and brought out a combination of riders, 16 in all. And not only those on the full-size cruisers, but even a couple of riders who had the idea that they could pull the fiberglass structure with a sportbike—a noble, but somewhat ill-fated, idea.
The one thing I did notice this year was the lack of musical entertainment. Usually the stage has a constant lineup of good talent for the entire day, but this year I noticed this segment was missing. I’m not sure why or what happened, but there was only two bands that performed while I was there and neither was outstanding.
With the rodeo games completed, it was time to grab some samples of the various flavors of chili that had been cooking since early morning, so we worked our way around the ring of folding tables set up under the massive tent. Now, while I am certainly not a chili connoisseur, I have eaten and prepared a few bowls in my lifetime. So some of the strange ingredients infused into some of the recipes were puzzling and quite bizarre. One had pineapple, one had sweet potatoes, and still another had something I don’t think I’ve ever tasted before. I honestly had to scratch my head and wonder why this concoction was even entered in a contest. There were a few versions of canned chili that had been doctored up and one that was like a thin, watery vegetable soup, not thick and robust like chili should be. Another tasted like somebody left the pot unattended too long over a hot burner. And then there was one that, after the first taste, I just had to find the nearest trash can.
After satisfying our taste buds, the sights and sounds of the party were kicking in, meaning it was time to go roaming and see what other debauchery might be going on. We returned to the COBB campsite, visited some other friends and took a long walk around the camping area where several hundred tents had been set up during our absence. By the time we arrived back at the stage from our walk, it was obvious that the troops were arriving for the last hoorah of the weekend. As more people continued to arrive, the thought of what would transpire on stage later that night with the offer of free piercings and other adult entertainment was enough to give me some serious thought as to the appropriate time of my departure.
Enduring the cluster
After realizing it was time for the winners of the cook-off to be announced, we made our way to center stage. And I must say the winners definitely caught me by surprise. A turkey-based chili called “Hot Gobbler” took the prize for the hot class, while the Band of Brothers cooking team won the mild category. One of the best ideas in the voting process was a plastic bag placed on the front of each chili stand. In order to vote for the People’s Choice Award, a person had to put a dollar (or more) in the bag. At the end of the day, the winner of this competition was Fred’s Cluster Fuck with $1,500 in their bag, which was donated to a local children’s charity called Christmas Angels.
After all the trophies for the chili were dispensed, the emcee announced that a trophy would be given away later in the day—the “Doing Something Really Stupid” award. It seems there were judges roaming the compound just watching for people doing something really stupid. Hell, I think there should have been several of these honors handed out. I personally could have awarded at least five and I wasn’t even taking names.
The final display of foolishness (and about all I could handle for the day) was the screaming orgasm contest. This was truly a theatrical production of huge proportions. There was a good-looking bike up on stage that supposedly had been equipped with a special seat and engineered for a gal’s pleasure (courtesy of an imbedded vibratory stimulator). All I can say is the first contestant wasn’t on that bike for more than 10 seconds and was well into her ooohing and aaahing when she let go and had an “accident.” Yep, she wet herself and that good-looking bike. Needless to say, that was not anticipated. The bike then had to be cleaned and the floor beneath it mopped so the next gal could saddle up.
My friend and I decided to evacuate the premises after this last performance (no pun intended) as we had a long ride home and things tend to get a little crazier after dark, as the cumulative effect of the day’s alcohol continues to increase. I’ve been at Roscoe’s before when the sun went down and let’s just say; I’ve seen it all.
Roscoe’s is a great time—free beer, plenty of room for camping and partying, bike games and an open, anything-goes atmosphere. But if over-the-top craziness isn’t your thing, I suggest you attend on Thursday afternoon before the big party starts or on Sunday afternoon when everyone is worn out and heading home. As for me, I’ll be there again, if only to be a part of the fun and insanity that has been going on for over a quarter of a century.