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World Championship Cheese Dip Festival

Submitted by on September 30, 2010 – 12:02 pmNo Comment

By Kerry Kraus
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Special to Road Trips for Foodies

Is Arkansas the birthplace of cheese dip? Little Rock lawyer and filmmaker Nick Rogers has done his research and believes it to be.

“My cheese dip curiosity began a few years ago in St. Louis. I was eating at a Mexican restaurant with a table full of new law school friends, and I ordered a cheese dip. Not one person at the table knew what that was. They laughed and ridiculed, and when it arrived, a couple people even refused to try it,” Rogers said.

“Of course I hooked everyone on the stuff eventually, but the shock of my friends’ initial ignorance intrigued me. At the time, I had no idea that cheese dip may have started in Arkansas. I just knew it was important to us as a state, and I was curious as to why.”

All of Rogers’ work resulted in a documentary entitled In Queso Fever, originally highlighted in the September 2009 issue of Oxford American magazine. He tracked the background of the spicy concoction to see if it could be “the dish” for which Arkansas could be famous. Rogers discovered the original Mexico Chiquito restaurant, though it was named Little Mexico at the time, opened in Hot Springs in 1935 and introduced cheese dip. This predates Rotel by at least 10 years. Mexico Chiquito is still alive and kicking in Arkansas with both full-service and drive-through locations.

In addition to the documentary, another outshoot of Rogers’ investigation is the inaugural World Cheese Dip Championship October 9 at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The competition features some of the state’s best-known restaurants and caterers who will go toe-to-toe with some of Central Arkansas’s most popular eateries.

Participants vie in the professional or amateur category for the titles of World Professional and Amateur Cheese Dip Champions. The competitions don’t end there. Winners for best tent decoration, excellence in meat incorporation, and healthiest cheese dip are also up for grabs. The pièce de résistance is that the overall professional division winner goes on to take part in the 2011 New Orleans Roadfood Festival March 25-27, 2011.

It’s not all just about cheese dip though. There is going to live music, arts and crafts vendors, and a special area for children. Additional food items, most with an Arkansas flavor, are available as well as different types of beverages. Hours are 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Admission is a donation of $5, with those under age 12 free. Proceeds benefit the Harmony Health Clinic.

(Photo courtesy Cuttlefish and Flickr)

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