On Saturday, March 11, the streets of Middlebury were closed off to host the Ninth Annual Vermont Chili Festival. Despite frigid temperatures and a wind chill that had “Chili Fest” attendees begging for Proctor’s warmth, over 20 restaurants and organizations showed up with their vats of chili to satisfy the hungry masses.
Chili Fest has been ranked one of the Top 10 Winter Events by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and the crowd on Saturday was a testament to that ranking.
“It’s freezing, so I wasn’t expecting it to be that crowded,” said Tristan Boyar ’20 at the event.
Participants in the event paid $8 at the door ($6 in advance, children under eight were free) and received a voting token and a spoon. Upon arrival, attendees walked down Main Street and sampled chili from the dozens of different booths there. After determining their favorite chili, participants were encouraged to vote with their token for the People’s Choice Award Winner.
A panel of six chili judges also attended the event, and they voted on six separate categories of chili which included veggie, beef, chicken, game, kitchen sink and pork. This year, Chili Festival saw the addition of a new category called “Anything But Chili.”
Winners all received cash prizes and then competed for the Best Overall category, which included a cash prize of $1,000, while second and third place received a cash prize of $750 and $500, respectively. Each individual category winner also received a cash prize of $100.
One popular business represented at the festival was Two Brothers Tavern. It was the restaurant’s ninth year participating in the festival, and already it had established a name for itself: The vegetarian chili (which is on the regular menu) won second place in last year’s “professional vegetarian” category.
This year, the return of the regular chili was accompanied by venison chili made with local meat and complemented with maple sour cream. The tavern also served chips to cut the chili’s spicy aftertaste.
John Davignon, chef at Two Brothers, had confidence in his dishes. “Last year was a big hit,” he said. “We’re hoping to continue on.”
Even for the less zealous chili fans, the festival’s atmosphere and entertainment were more than enough for some participants.
“The guy running around in the Chili costume was the best part of the event for me,” said Sedge Lucas ’19. In the past, there have been dance performances, live music and flash mobs.
Whether you chose to eat chili, vote on your favorite sample, or went for the celebration, Chili Fest delivered lasting memories for many Vermonters.