February 24, 2012


Chill-A-Bration moves downtown

Organizers hope new location for winter festival boosts businesses


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Austin Falso-West, 7, checks out ice sculptures at the 2008 Chill-A-Bration festival. After being held in Courthouse Park the last four years, the winter celebration will be held downtown this Saturday.

Staff Reporter

Cortland’s 5th annual Chill-A-Bration festival is moving from Courthouse Park to downtown this year.
The mid-winter celebration on Saturday will feature 13 types of chili from local establishments as well as samples from other businesses and plenty of family-friendly entertainment from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Adam Megivern, executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, said moving Chill-A-Bration downtown will focus the event on local retailers, cut down on the crowds and help keep it family friendly.
The move also created much more interest in the chili cook-off than in years past.
“We have 13 entries this year,” Megivern said. “I think in the past the most we’ve ever had is seven or eight.”
Downtown businesses that enter chili in the competition will serve it at their business, rather than one central location. The Stone Lounge, Cortland Beer Company and Woodman’s Pub will host the samples for entrants outside of downtown, Megivern said.
“Downtown Cortland is really the economic and cultural center of our area,” he said. “One of the obstacles in getting people involved in the past was no one wanted to stand outside all day, which is understandable. By moving the events inside, we’re hoping people will reconnect with local businesses and we’ll get more interest.”
This year’s chili competition will feature the first Chill-A-Bration Trophy, an antique copper pot and ladle donated by Main Street Antiques in Homer.
Other businesses will offer off-kilter and unusual samples. The Blue Frog Cafe will have Mexican hot chocolate while the Gable Inn is making deep-fried Hoffman hot dogs soaked in wing sauce. Cortland Beer Company is teaming up with the East Side Bakery to make Chili Beer Bombs using the brewery’s Red Dragon Ale.
Dan Cleary, owner of Cortland Beer Company, said moving the festival downtown to mirror the Taste of Downtown Festival in July was the right move. “I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “If the weather’s horrible people will be able to get inside. Even with drinks involved it means you can bring the kids down. The ultimate goal of course is for people to come in and buy something.”
The craft brewery will also have samples of its other brews on hand.
The Marketplace Mall will feature a free magic show and balloon animals by Mike the Cartoon Magician as well as face painting.
Rebecca Beardslee, owner of children’s clothing store The Little Pumpkin, said she thinks moving the festival to downtown will help drive people to visit the mall where her store is located.
“It’s a positive move,” she said.
Beardslee and Rita Hernandez, owner of Cortland Health Foods, put together a window display to help advertise for the event.
The more people that come visit the Marketplace Mall the better, Hernandez said.
“It’ll be a good thing for people to come to the mall during the festival,” she said. “We want people to just have fun.”
Tickets for chili samples and a Chill-A-Bration glass mug can be purchased in advanced from Jodi’s Hallmark, the Cortland Beer Company or the Downtown Partnership building, at 9 Main St.
Tickets will include a voting ballot for the best chili in Cortland. Visitors who stop by five different retailers and get their ballot signed can also enter a drawing to win one of two prizes.
The first is a one-night stay at Greek Peak’s Hope Lake Lodge and two passes to the Cascades Indoor Waterpark. The other prize is a $200 shopping spree at any downtown retailer, from the Scotsman Pennysaver.
Winners for the chili cook-off and the prizes will be announced at 4 p.m. in The Stone Lounge and the Marketplace Mall.


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