The History of Howdy-Roo and Highland Lakes Pod, CASI

by Ruby Ross

The Highland Lakes Tourist Association had urged all the area Chambers of Commerce to have an event to promote tourism.  That’s when Aqua Boom in Kingsland, Spring Ho in Lampasas and the Burnet Fiddler’s Fest along with Howdy-Roo all got started.  Clyde Griffin stated the first meeting was held at the Yacht Restaurant in Marble Falls.  “We had a roomful of people at this meeting and we decided to have an old fashioned country festival and a chili cookoff”.  This was a Marble Falls event to promote tourism.

The first Howdy-Roo Chili Cookoff was held on April 8, 1972, on the school grounds (currently the elementary school). Bill Kennon was the First Head Honchoroo.  He won this honor when he won the name-that-festival contest with the name of "Howdy-Roo".  There was only one entry.  The "Head Honchoroo" was the chairman of Howdy-Roo each year.

Bill Wilcox (Clements-Wilcox Funeral Homes of Burnet and Marble Falls) lent a hand in organizing the first Howdy-Roo cookoff because he had attended a chili cookoff.  From the beginning Bill has sponsored & still sponsors one of the granite trophies.  The chili cooks treasure the granite State of Texas trophies.

There were 20 cooks at this first cookoff.  Mary Griffin of Marble Falls & Gary Hahne tied.  Gary Hahne was with the group known as Brazos Barristers.  Because of the tie they awarded a women's & men's division.

The cookoff was moved to Johnson park in 1973 because of the litter problem and the park was much more comfortable for overnight camping.

The Howdy-Roo chili cookoff got the ball rolling for chili cooks from Marble Falls to begin traveling to cook elsewhere.  Mary's next cookoff was Ladies State in Luckenbach where she won 2nd and was invited to the World's Champion chili cooking contest in Terlingua.

Griff's big win came in 1976 when he placed first in Seguin.  Two weeks later Daryl Staedtler had a cookoff in Llano.  This was the first year to earn points and to qualify for Terlingua.  Six points were required to qualify.  The entries are kept secret until the judges' decisions are made, and the bribery technique was a thing of the past.  Still, “fun remains the main theme at all cookoffs."

The Highland Lakes Pod was founded in 1977 by Clyde & Mary Griffin of Marble Falls and Darrell Staedtler of Llano.   Clyde & Darrell were co-Great Peppers of the Pod.  They received a letter inviting them to the first GP meeting. This meeting was held Sept 6, 1980, at Paul Smith's Sky-Hi Ranch near Weatherford. Darrell could not attend this meeting so Clyde & Mary attended.  Clyde represented the HLP at this meeting.

The Highland Lakes Pod was re-established Sept 8, 1982.  The Articles of Incorporation of Highland Lakes Pod, Chili Appreciation Society International, Inc are dated February, 1983.  Registered Agent - Clyde O. Griffin.  Board of Directors were: Clyde Griffin, Malcolm Fox, Sharon Roy, & Natha Smith also being the incorporators.  At this time the members voted to have The Supreme Great Pepper, Clyde Griffin. No other Great Pepper shall have such designation in The Highland Lakes Pod.

The "world's biggest pot of chili" was part of the state wide Sesquicentennial celebrations in San Antonio in 1986. HLP members Clyde & Mary Griffin, Ruby Frasier, Sharon Roy, Red Caldwell (along with many other chili heads) were called upon to help turn 4,000 pounds of meat into the largest pot of chili in the world.

HLP had many CCO on Memorial Day at Krause Springs, Spicewood, Texas.  We also had our first “Cast Off & Laid Back” chili cookoff at Krause Springs.  These CCO became very popular & continued to grow each year.  The ’Cast Off’ we recycled trophies, shirts, caps, etc.

After we left Krause Springs we had CCO at Sonny’s Tradition in Spicewood, Texas.  This was another very popular CCO. He sold his restaurant in 2000 but the new owner Chuck Honke continued the CCO until he sold in 2003.

R.V. Turney was GP in 1987-88. He presented the Howdy-Roo winner in 1988 with an apron.  This apron is still passed on to the new winner each year.

The Howdy Roo festival is an annual event continuing to grow each year.  After Howdy-Roo XIX held on 5-5-1990, Great Pepper Carolyn Hejtmancik was informed by Al Stephens, 1990 Head Honchoroo, that the “the Howdy Roo committee” (which the Great Pepper was a member) had decided they did not want the Chili Cookoff as a part of the Howdy-Roo festival.  There was a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce members: Rose Metzler, Al Stephens, & Brenda Morris and Highland Lakes Pod members: Carolyn Hejtmancik, Clyde Griffin and Ruby Ross.  This was when it was decided the chili cookoff & the chamber would have separate events. Highland Lakes Pod continued to sponsor the Howdy-Roo Chili Cookoff the first weekend in May.  The Highland Lakes Chili Pod currently has the Howdy-Roo Trademark & Tradename.  HLP is Howdy-Roo.

In 1990 the "Time Capsule" was to be buried at TICC in Terlingua.  The HLP members signed a laminated copy of the Chili Enquirer (published by the Highlander Publishing Co of Marble Falls) to be buried with a copy of the membership directory.  These items were buried again in 2000 along with the Highland Lakes membership granite disc (which was painted by Gayle Cook) and the Highland Lakes Qualifying Pen.

In 1992 the Highland Lakes Pod co-hosted along with Sap-Casi, SOT Pod, PCP Pod the Great Pepper's meeting in San Antonio  Ruby Ross was GP & Ira Duffeild was chairman of this committee.  Very successful GP meeting.

In 1996 Melba Westerman was Great Pepper. At this time CASI was having more back to back CCO.  This is when HLP began having Howdy-Roo on Sat & Backbone CCO on Sun.  This CCO was named Backbone CCO because we now had Dr. Larry Kinnison & Carrie, chiropractor in Marble Falls active members of HLP.  They have sponsored the Backbone trophies each year.  (Also, the creek which runs through Johnson Park is Backbone Creek.)

Jimmy Taylor became our GP 1994 & l995.  His first year he suggested we have a Youth CCO.  In 1994 we had 11 entries and 1995 we had 8 entries.  This was a good idea but we couldn’t seem to draw enough interest to continue with the Youth Chili Cookoffs.

Jimmy came up with the idea we add BBQ & Bean to Howdy-Roo.  In 1995 we had 14 BBQ teams and 22 Bean cooks. This proved to be very successful & has continued to date.

Larry Kinnison was GP in 2001.  The HLP began having the New Year’s American Legion CCO in Kingsland.  This began as a 2-day event and then it became New Year’s weekend Party & Chili cookoffs.  This has grown each year & 2009 was our largest attendance.  If you want to attend a great New Year’s party & cookoffs, this is the one.  Breakfast is served & plenty of CHILI, CHARITY & FUN.

2006 under leadership of Carrie Kinnison the HLP joined the Central Texas Pods in hosting the GP meeting in Austin.  These Pods were Classic CASI, SOT POD, Texas Hill Country, Alamo Pod, PCP Pod, Sap CASI, ACES Pod, and Pod on Pedernales. All the hard work produced a great GP meeting.

In 2007 we adopted Lake Country Lanes CCO to benefit the youth bowlers.  This has been a very popular CCO.  This one we get our cue sticks, bowling shoes & balls, and our cooking skills are again tested.  We have our ‘Cast Off CCO’ on Sunday.  We all gather together under the pavilion to cook & mingle with our friends.

HLP was granted our 40th Howdy-Roo CCO, May 7, 2011, as a CASI Regional CCO and the Lonestar Barbecue as a State Champion Barbecue.

Below are the officers who have proudly contributed in making the Highland Lakes Pod, CASI, the second oldest CASI Chili Pod and Howdy-Roo the oldest Pod chili cookoff.

There is not a charity in Burnet County HLP has not supported. Howdy-Roo helped purchase the first EMS vehicle for Marble Falls. We are still very active with a total of over 170 members & continues promoting Howdy-Roo and our beautiful city of Marble Falls to make each year better with CHILI, CHARITY & FUN.

Year Great Pepper

1977 Clyde Griffin & Gary Staedtler

1982-1983 Clyde Griffin

1983-1984 Clyde Griffin

1984-1985 Ruby Frasier

1985-1986 Ruby Frasier

1986-1987 Jackson Jones

1987-1988 R.V. Turney

1988-1989 Ruby Ross

1989-1990 Carolyn Hejtmancik

1990-1991 Lillie Hackworth

1991-1992 Ruby Ross

1992-1993 Fae Paske

1993-1994 Jimmy Taylor

1994-1995 Jimmy Taylor

1995-1996 Melba Westerman

1996-1997 Rusty Paske

1997-1998 Ruby Ross

1998-1999 Larry Kinnison

1999-2000 Pat Pilchiek

2000-2001 Larry Kinnison

2001-2002 Larry Kinnison

2002-2003 Ruby Ross

2003-2004 Tom Cook

2004-2005 Carrie Kinnison

2005-2006 Carrie Kinnison

2006-2007 Carrie Kinnison

2007-2008 Tom Cook

2008-2009 Tom Cook

2009-2010 Tom Cook

2010-2011 Larry Kinnison

2011-2012 Larry Kinnison
2012-2013 Larry Kinnison
2014-2015 Carrie Kinnison

The Highland Lakes Pod and Howdy-Roo was founded by Clyde & Mary Griffin and Dick & Mary Rogers.  Without these great friends, many of us would not be CASI cooks today.