If you've never been to the Hanover Chili Cook Off before, the idea of a field full of strangers eating chili during the summer might be a little daunting.

But don't let it overwhelm you.

Take it from a former Hanover resident who's been to the cook off at least six times in past years.

Before you head out to the Labor Day weekend event, get some tips to make it your best chili cook off — and maybe the first of many years to come.

1. Don't forget the sunscreen

It's Labor Day weekend, and summer may be on its way out. But that doesn't mean you'll escape without some rays. Dress accordingly. In past years, it's usually sunny, humid and just plain hot. There's not a whole lot of shade at the event.

2. Practice your technique

The cook off isn't just about the chili — there's also beer. To help keep you cool (and cool off the chili), you'll want a beer.

Plus, it's beer. Yum.

Beer in one hand, you pick up your chili sample after waiting in line, and go to get your spoon.

But wait! How are you going to feed yourself and not spill a drop of beer? Technique.

Give it a few tries, and you'll master the art of holding a Solo cup and chili cup in one hand, spoon in the other.

Practice makes perfect.

3. Long lines

Coming in the main entrance, the lines around the first row of chili stops gets pretty backed up.

There's an understood rule of getting in the line and making your way through much of the stands. But there are often a few gaps (around other vendors or the beer) where the lines break up and start over.

If you arrive at a busy time, start on the side farther from the entrance. You won't have to wait as long.

Also, don't be a jerk and jump the line.

4. Superhuman strength

Pro tip: Superman is often in attendance. Don't be shy, step up and ask for a selfie.

But don't ask where he keeps his phone.

5. Pace yourself

There's a lot to eat and drink, so pace yourself.

But more importantly, put off breaking the seal for as long as possible.

Bathrooms at the cook off are portable toilets.

And remember, it's hot. I once almost busted out of one without buttoning my pants because I was suffocating.

6. Have fun

Between practicing your chili-and-beer holding, waiting to use the bathroom and stress over long lines, don't forget to have fun.

Bring a blanket or chairs and take a break in front of the live music.

Life can't get much better than that. Plus it's for a good cause.

Read or Share this story: