April 5 will mark two years since Aggies last had the chance to experience the beloved annual Chilifest.
Founded in 1999, Chilifest is a two-day festival in Snook featuring rock and country artists with the purpose of raising money for local charities in Brazos Valley. While cautionary measures had to be taken and the festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, students reminisce on why they cherish this festival.
For financial management graduate student Jake Urban, the weekend of Chilifest served as a stress-free time to unwind.
“In my opinion, Chilifest is all about getting together with your closest friends from college,” Urban said. “It’s a great two-day event that I’m allowed to just kind of do nothing and worry about nothing but hanging out with my friends.”
While Urban’s time at Texas A&M will soon be coming to an end, he said he made some of his closest friendships at Chilifest and feels sorry for the younger classes having missed out on the tradition these past two years.
“I actually became really close friends with a good amount of people. I think three or four of my closest friends now I met at Chilifest,” Urban said. “So that’s really tough for [underclassmen] because I think looking back on it, if I wasn’t able to attend Chilifest, I wouldn’t be able to make the connections I made.”
Management senior and Vice President of Chilifest Garrison Kindred said he also formed relationships during his time as a member on the board and misses supporting the community.
“Not being able to give back to those charities and see the impact that that makes, that’s what I miss the most,” Kindred said. “Of course I miss the concerts and setting up and seeing everyone have a blast, but what really hurts is not being able to help out the people we’ve been helping out for 30 years.”
Being a part of the Chilifest team, Kindred said he was fortunate enough to have made close relationships with the charities, and he holds that connection close to his heart.
“My favorite moment was in 2019, the last time that we had Chilifest,” Kindred said. “We had the check presentation to the charities, and it was awesome to have everyone there that we helped and handing out these big checks and seeing the smiles on their faces.”
Public health senior Mikayla Cole said she cherishes the music entertainment and atmosphere of the festival more than all else.
“I would say [the best part is] being able to hang out with a bunch of different people you wouldn’t normally hang out with and experiencing a concert setting, but not having to really get out of town,” Cole said. “I miss being in the crowded atmosphere and at a concert setting. Even if you don’t know who’s playing you still have a good time.”
Urban said his favorite memory from the festival took him by surprise.
“I’m not a big country music guy, but I really enjoyed being able to see Lynyrd Skynyrd perform ‘Free Bird,’” Urban said. “I thought that was just incredible, and I vividly remember that to this day.”
Cole said while Chilifest is one of many A&M traditions, she is hopeful the younger classes will be able to attend in the future.
“It’s definitely sad that they don’t get to experience that at least their first two years. I think it will go back to normal, so they will get to experience it for the rest,” Cole said. “It’s not [the] end all be all. It’s not losing the most important part of A&M, but it is a fun aspect to look back on.”
Kindred said he especially feels for the upperclassmen during this time.
“I feel more for the class of 2020 and 2021,” Kindred said. “Those are the kids that are going to be graduating. Some that didn’t go as freshmen or sophomores that missed out back in 2019 and 2018 … [who] waited to go their junior year when they turn 21.”
With anticipation for the return of Chilifest in 2022, Cole said she hopes the festival will accommodate the best it can to COVID-19.
“Hopefully they’re able to get really good people like they have previously and that they can make it a safe environment because obviously COVID[-19] isn’t going away anytime soon, so I just hope they can make it a safe environment,” Cole said.
For more information regarding Chilifest, visit https://www.chilifest.org/.