February 19, 2012

Despite Snow, Chili Cook-Off Heats Up Downtown

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Offering more than 55 varieties of mouthwatering chili prepared by local eateries, Saturday’s annual Great Chili Cook-Off was the event’s largest “Chili Fest” yet.The day’s weather fluctuated between snow, rain and shine, but did not discourage the community’s enthusiasm for the chili, cheese and cornbread provided by businesses such as D.P. Dough, Stella’s Restaurant and Viva Taqueria, among many others.“That’s Ithaca for you!” Patty Clark, event manager for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, exclaimed at one point, as the pouring rain abruptly gave way to sunshine.“We got all kinds of weather this year … but I guess it didn’t work against us the whole time,” Clark said.The 14th Chili Fest drew more than 5,000 visitors over the course of the day, according to Clark, who said that an increase in vendors this year prevented lines for chili from becoming unbearable.“The chili lines were a lot shorter this year,” Clark said. “Because we had so many entries, there were different places to spread people out.”GreenStar Cooperative Market, a Chili Fest fixture, gave out 15 gallons, or 1,300 cups, of chili on Saturday, according to Debbie Lazinsky, who works in the grocery store’s marketing department. Lazinsky emphasized the importance of Chili Fest for the business’ visibility.“We saw a lot of people that I don’t feel are regular customers, so it is great exposure for us,” Lazinsky said.GreenStar won third place in the vegetarian category for its chili, which is made with local black beans.“GreenStar is all about good, healthy food,” Lazinsky said.  “Any chance we have to go into the community and serve healthy, homemade food is great for us.”Collegetown Bagels took the prize for best vegetarian chili, while best meat chili went to Razorback BBQ and Red Jacket Orchard walked away with first, second and third place in the category for best local beverage.

Jeff McCall, from the New Roots Charter School, cooked in Chili Fest for the first time this year after moving from Texas. He said that he enjoyed the event.

“I think the turnout was great … There [were] a lot of great contenders today, a lot of great chili,” McCall said. “I heard a lot of great things about everything. The weather didn’t seem to deter anyone.”Chili Fest also allowed Cornell students to interact with — and feed — people in the Ithaca community. Cornell students from the 87th Annual Hotel Ezra Cornell, a hospitality showcase organized by the School of Hotel Administration, entered the festival with a beef tip sirloin chili.“People loved it … there were a lot of Cornell alumni who stopped by the booth,” said Lindsey Brous ’12. “Our chili was really well received. We had many people who came back two, three, or four times just to have a taste of our chili.”Chili Fest is one of several downtown Ithaca festivals, including Apple Fest and Brew Fest, that draw Cornell students and locals alike to the Ithaca Commons.“It was my first time going to Chili Fest,” said Sharon Guzman ’13. “I really like how festivals and these type of gathering give a greater sense of community. It’s especially great for Cornell students who don’t really associate much with Ithacans and Ithaca College.”

Original Author: Tajwar Mazhar