VTC’s chili cook-off is back in modified format

WATERTOWN — Because of the ongoing pandemic, the 2022 North Country Chili Cook-Off won’t be returning to a traditional format this year.

Like the 2021 event, the Volunteer Transportation Center’s annual cook-off will be held in a modified format in February.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual event was typically held at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown on the first Saturday of February. In 2021, the modified cook-off was held the entire month of February. Due to high transmission rates of the virus and increased state protocols, the decision has been made to again host the event — which will mark its 23rd year — in a modified format.

“The North Country Chili Cook-Off was known for drawing hundreds to thousands of people each year prior to the pandemic. And we hope to be back to that point in the future,” Jeremiah S. Papineau, director of communications and foundation director for the VTC, said in a news release. “However, as we continue to navigate the pandemic, we have to continue to do so in a responsible way that still keeps the spirit of our event alive.”

Last year, committee members put their heads together to figure out just how to do that for the 2021 event. They decided to focus only on the “Professional” category and hold the competition among participating restaurants throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Instead of a one-day event, the new version of the cook-off was hosted during the entire month of February in a “pub crawl” style. Those wishing to sample and vote on their favorite entries were able to do so at local restaurants.

The event, Mr. Papineau said, was a success, with 28 restaurants participating in the tri-county area. L.E.A.’S Diner in Heuvelton received the most votes for the People’s Choice Award and was declared the winner. Meme’s Diner in Felts Mills collected the most donations, earning the Top Fundraiser Award, raising $560.

“Thanks to our amazing sponsors, participating restaurants and the support of the community, we were able to host an event that worked out very well,” he said. “We were overwhelmed with the support not just because it’s the cook-off and people look forward to it but because it’s also a very important fundraiser.”

more demand for services

The North Country Chili Cook-Off raises money for the VTC to provide transportation for veterans and their families. Last year’s event raised $28,000. It typically raises upwards of $40,000 in a normal year, Mr. Papineau said.

“Despite this event raising less than we would have seen in any other year, we are extremely happy to even have been able to host it,” he said. “The need for transportation has not ceased over the past year-and-a-half.”

That’s evidenced in the increase of clients served since the start of the pandemic, Mr. Papineau noted. In addition, at the onset of the pandemic, the VTC suspended its practice of placing more than one client in a vehicle as a way to limit the spread of COVID-19. While a good safety practice, it does come at an additional cost, he said.

“With our suspension of combining rides, that has led to an increased cost for mileage reimbursement. That’s because we’re assigning more than one driver for a trip that, in the past, we could assign to only one,” said.

Restaurants interested in participating in the 2022 North Country Chili Cook-Off can do so again for free by filling out an entry form and either enter a chili from their existing menu or create a special chili for this event.

Chefs are encouraged to offer samples of their entries at a cost of their choosing — which could even be free or free with purchase. The idea will be to get as many people to vote for their entry as possible. Those wanting to cast votes will be able to do so online through the VTC website, www.volunteertransportation.org, or by submitting their votes at participating establishments.

The entry with the most votes will receive a plaque denoting them winner of the special edition People’s Choice Award.

In addition, participating restaurants will again be able to win a Top Fundraiser Award by collecting donations for the VTC.

The cook-off is chaired by Amy McEathron, of Carthage.

Restaurants, sponsors sought

The North Country Chili Cook-Off planning committee is in the process of seeking restaurants interested in participating in February’s event, as well as sponsors. Those interested in participating or sponsoring may reach out to Mr. Papineau at 315-303-2590 or via email at jeremiah@volunteertransportation.org.

The deadline to enter the cook-off or to be a sponsor is Friday, Jan. 14. This is to ensure chefs and sponsors are listed in a program for the event which will be available online as well as printed and distributed.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.