More than 6,000 get a taste of fun at annual Middlebury Chili Festival

MIDDLEBURY — More than 6,000 people poured into Addison County’s shire town on Saturday, March 9, to feast on more than 60 varieties of chili in what has become one of the state’s signature winter draws, the annual Middlebury Chili Festival.
Chili Fest organizers said they were very pleased with the turnout on what was a picture-perfect, sunny day. Amey Ryan,  chairperson of the Chili Fest organizing committee and a member of the Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) board, said around 6,000 buttons were sold for the event. Those buttons, sold at $5 each, entitled the attendee to unlimited samples of the 61 varieties of chili offered by 46 vendors.
The sun set on the successful event with the crowning of six chili category winners and an overall champion: Indulge Salon of Middlebury, for its chicken chili. The team included Keith Farrell, Dean Rubright and Amanda Rheaume. First runner-up in the overall champion category was Black Sheep Bistro of Vergennes for its pork chili; second runner-up was Tourterelle and Misty Knoll Farms, both of New Haven, for their chicken variety.
The individual category winners included:
•  Beef: Jessica’s Restaurant at the Swift House Inn in Middlebury.
•  Chicken: Indulge Salon.
•  Pork: The Black Sheep Bistro.
•  Game: The Fishtail Tavern in Bomoseen.
•  Veggie: Middlebury College.
•  “Kitchen Sink”: Cyclewise, New Haven.
The atmosphere was festive on Main Street, which was closed to vehicles between Seymour Street and the roundabout in front of Two Brothers. As usual, the Middlebury Fire Department featured, along with its delicious chili, a firetruck with a flag flying from the ladder that was extended skyward. Officials at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the green threw open the front doors and let revelers ring the bell in the tower. A group several score strong staged a “flash mob” in front of the National Bank of Middlebury building, in which they performed a rousing dance; their enthusiasm was infectious and brought forth a huge round of applause from the amazed crowd.
Ryan said admission receipts will benefit the nonprofit BMP and, as always, a local charity. That charity this year will be the food shelves run by Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects and Addison Community Action.
Along with generating a lot of fun and full bellies, the Chili Fest again brought many shoppers to downtown Middlebury to give a nice boost to local businesses, Ryan noted. She thanked the many organizers and entertainers who helped make the event a success.
“I think it went very well,” Ryan said of this year’s festival.
“It provides a lot of exposure to the town.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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