Woodstock hosts chili cook-off

Chili connoisseurs are preparing for a cook-off in the first Woodstock Chili Fest at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds next weekend.

Katie Mercer, Woodstock enhancement coordinator, said the town wanted to introduce an event in the cooler months before spring kicks into high gear, but bypassed holding it in February.

“We decided we weren’t going to ask people to cook the chili outside in a blizzard or in 10-degree weather,” she said laughingly.

Mercer said she had gotten pointers from organizations and individuals that host similar cook-off events elsewhere, including the Exchange Club of Winchester.

The application period for competing teams closed on Wednesday. Contestants for the inaugural festival include some familiar area businesses as well as individual entries. Mercer said that attendees can look forward to tasting some well-known local favorites along with some home-grown chili recipes.

“One guy said that he makes it Super Bowl Sunday outside on a fire,” she said. “I’m excited myself to taste all of them.”

Attendees will get two different colored tickets to drop into buckets for their favorite cooks. One ticket will count as a vote toward the showmanship prize and the other will count toward the overall winner. Mercer said no judges will be involved with the competition this year.

“We thought we’d make it simple and do it this way,” she said. “If we want to have it sanctioned in the future, we might have a separate category.”

She said the festival has looked into the possibility of using approved judges so that future festivals can include an official International Chili Society cook-off.

The overall winner at the Woodstock Chili Fest will receive a $500 prize, the second place entry will receive $250 and the showmanship winner will get $100.

Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a beer and cider garden inside the Lilly Building, which will also house vendors and activities. The Instigators will provide live music at the festival. Mercer said the town’s public works department will be debuting its giant Connect Four set for town events there. Chili cooks will be set up in booths outside the building.

Mercer said she hopes the event will grow in interest and expand in years to come.

“We welcome any feedback after the event the first time around,” she said. “We want to do it even better next year.”

IF YOU GO:

• 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 2 at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds, 300 Fairground Road in Woodstock.

• Admission: $5 in advance, $7 at gate. Ages 12 and younger admitted free.

• Learn more and purchase tickets at http://tinyurl.com/zr87s8d.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

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