February 18, 2014
Downtown readies for hot chili
Annual Chill-A-Bration festival returns Saturday with chili cook-off
Area residents can melt away their winter blues downtown with piping hot chili on Saturday at the seventh annual Chill-A-Bration festival.
A total of 21 restaurants and eateries will be offering up chili and other seasonal fare to hungry attendees. More than 600 people attend Chill-A-Bration every year, according to Jane Witty, the event coordinator for the Cortland Downtown Partnership.
Even more attendees could be on hand for the festivities Saturday if the weather is as forecasted, Witty said. The National Weather Service is calling for a high of 39 degrees with partly sunny skies for Saturday.
“If the forecast for this weekend is accurate, I expect many more than that,” Witty said. “It draws people from the region and locally that might not visit downtown.”
Mugs, tasting maps and tickets went on sale Monday and are available at the Cortland Downtown Partnership at 9 Main St., Blue Frog Cafe at 64 Main St. and Cortland Brewing Co. at 16 Court St. There are only 500 mugs available.
Witty said there will be some new entertainment options in the Family Fun Zone housed in the Marketplace Mall. There will be music by How’s the Soup and a presentation from Sol-X founder Blaze Sanders, who is designing technology with extraterrestrial applications right on Main Street.
Volunteers from SUNY Cortland will be operating booths with games and face painting as well.
One thing that has been guaranteed not to change is the top-prize winning chili from last year’s edition of the Chill-A-Bration. The Deli Downtown at 54 Main St. has claimed the best chili crown on four occasions in the history of the event on the strength its white chicken chili.
Manager Ryan St. Dennis said the deli had considered trying out a different recipe but opted to stick with the tried and true. The fact that its chili is a regular menu item means fans of the dish can have it throughout the year.
“We want to have something we have on the menu all the time,” St. Dennis said. “We don’t want to make up a chili just for the competition that people can’t order on a regular basis.”
Holding the event in February in the deep of winter provides a great opportunity to do something out in the community in a time of year when festivals and other outdoor orientated events are a scarcity, Witty said.
“We’ve been hibernating for a few months,” she said. “Everyone wants to get out and have some fun.”
Holding the event from noon to 4 p.m. at different restaurants means that attendees won’t be freezing and shop owners will get clientele into their place of business.
“It’s good for the community,” St. Dennis said. “It gets a lot of the college students downtown or people that would normally only come down here normally for lunch during the week to come to Main Street on the weekend.”
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