Finnish hat was hot

EVEN though Petra Stoor hails from Finland she knows the effort it takes to become recognised among the locals.

Petra has been backpacking Australia and for the past three months she has called the Coffs Coast home, and what better way to mingle with the locals than by winning this year's annual chilli festival hat competition.

Event manager for the festival Sonja Wallis said crowds reached well over 7000 this year which is the biggest turnout ever. She also admitted that never before had there been a hat as hot as Petra's.

"We ran the same competitions this year but this was the first time we had a visitor all the way from Finland to steal the show," Ms Wallis said.

Other highlights on Saturday included a Spanish-dressed family and also the entertainment this year which included some first-time acts.

"There was non-stop activity all day and everyone was entertained because there was something always happening."

It appears women were the winners throughout the whole day. Ms Wallis said for the first time ever a female won the chilli eating contest in what become one hot eat-off display.

"Amy Tildesley was the only female finalist and I don't believe we have ever had a woman beat the men in this competition," she said.

Six people were up on stage for the chilli final and each one had to fully devour half a cup of jalapeno peppers and also two full red chillis, which are the hottest spice you can get.

"You can't get out of eating them because you have to swallow everything and then be the first to put your cup on your head and open your mouth."

The Chamber of Commerce event has been running for seven years and it has become an event which involves the whole family with market stalls, great food and loads of entertainment.

Some of Australia's leading chilli products are available for this one day only to tantalise the taste buds with dips, sauces and more.

The chilli competitions this year included best hat, fancy dress, colouring-in competition and also the inter-school chilli cook-off.

The festival rounded up at 4pm but, for those a little more daring, the enjoyment continued well into the evening at the Sawtell Hotel.

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