February 24, 2014
Chili heats up downtown
Warm weather, hungry crowds highlight 7th annual Chill-A-Bration
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Debbie Havens of Binghamton, left, spends the day with lifelong friend Barb Closson of Cortland while tasting a sample of the Deli Downtown’s Alice White Chicken Chili Saturday during the seventh annual Chill-A-Bration.
Freezing temperatures and freezing rain subsided Saturday afternoon, providing perfect weather for residents participating in the seventh annual Chill-A-Bration downtown.
The Deli Downtown was looking to defend its title as “The Cortland Area’s Favorite Chili” by serving up hot mugs of its Alice’s White Chicken Chili that won the title last year.
By 2 p.m., owner Jeanne Catalfano said the restaurant had already served around 14 gallons worth.
“It’s been pretty steady since we started,” Catalfano said.
She added that people had been coming back and using up extra tickets for second and third samples of the chili.
She explained why she thought so many people were coming back for more.
“It’s got a creamy flavor, but its also got a nice little kick at the end, but it’s not too spicy,” Catalfano said. “It’s got corn in it, so I think that adds a little something extra to it. It’s really good.”
After the event, manager Ryan St. Denis confirmed the Deli Downtown had once again received the title of “The Cortland Area’s Best Chili” for the fifth time in the event’s seven-year history.
The Butternut Squash Chili the Community Restaurant cooked up was a close second, followed by Frosted with its Dessert Chili, according to the Downtown Partnership.
Mugs and tasting tickets sold out within the first hour of the event, and planners estimate more than 1,000 people visited downtown.
One thing Chill-A-Bration never fails to do is bring together members of the community and SUNY Cortland students. Students Shannon Kelly and Jenna DeMarco said this year was the first time they attended the event as they sampled some of the Deli Downtown’s award-winning chili.
“I love this,” DeMarco said. “I feel like it gets everyone out in the community. There’s actually life here on a Saturday. It’s nice to see, plus there’s free chili. It’s awesome.”
The Marketplace Mall was packed with booths and various activities to entertain people and even raise money for a cause. Engineer and Sol-X founder Blaze Sanders, who was set up behind his science-themed booth, said he was approached by the Downtown Partnership to set something up that was unique to the event that everyone could enjoy.
“The Cortland Downtown Partnership ... wanted something a little bit out of the normal,” Sanders said. “A little bit cooler than getting your face painted, and they saw my stuff as an interesting way to engage kids.”
On display were astronaut’s mission patches, samples of synthetic moon dust and small electronic kits called GDBs, or gravity development boards, that children add lights or upload music to that will eventually be sent into space.
“Anyone ages 10 and up can build robotic missions, flash LEDs, play music in space for less than 10 bucks a month,” Sanders said. “We take care of all the hard engineering, they get to have all the fun.”
A few feet away, 8-year old Lea Seales was selling handmade jewelry with her dog, Georgie, to raise money for the Elizabeth Brewster House at 41 S. Main St. in Homer. She and a classmate just wanted to do something nice for the community, she said.
At that point of the event, Seales had successfully raised $91, well on her way to reaching her goal of raising $100 for the Brewster House.
Meanwhile, at the Cortland Brewing Company, Cortland residents Sarah Chekansky, Billy Humphries and Courtney Stevens reminisced about the days when Chill-A-Bration was held in Courthouse Park and how far its come since then.
“You get to see more downtown,” Chekansky said, “ More of the city. Different places and businesses you wouldn’t normally go into if it was at the park.”
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