MARION, Va. (WJHL) – Downtown Marion was packed with people ready to try the best chili the town has to offer during the 37th Annual Chili Cookoff.

Organizers said the event simply began as a way to bring people back to the area.

“It started back in 1986 as a promotion to bring people downtown,” said event organizer Ken Heath. “And boy, has it paid off! What a great time.”

Groups show up early in the day to begin preparing their chili. Last year’s winner, Marion Mafia, said they were excited for the opportunity to compete again.

“This time it’s a bigger challenge because there’s more competition,” said Don Corwell, member of the Marion Mafia group. “And to win all three trophies last year, that’s a challenge to try and pull it off again.”

Other groups had members participating for the first time.

“I’m excited about the chance to win,” said Max Puckett, participating with the Emory & Henry School of Health Sciences. “Because I didn’t come here to lose.”

The event usually sees about nine groups participate in the cookoff. That number nearly doubled with 16 teams in the competition.

While the chili cookoff is the main focus of the event, Heath said it’s about more than the competition.

“It’s the community,” Heath said. “The fact that the community comes together and says we want to be a part of something bigger than we are and it’s such a nice change.”

The Marion Mafia took home the top prize for the second year in a row with their signature Prohibition Chili. They said the back-to-back win won’t stop them from participating again.

“We’re going to compete until we lose,” said group member Rex Anders.