Chili Festival: A spicy, fun time

MIDDLEBURY — Downtown Middlebury was a mob scene on Saturday afternoon as between 5,500 and 6,000 people filled the closed-off Main Street to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the seventh annual Vermont Chili Festival.
The event brought people from many parts of the state to Middlebury to taste more than 50 chilies, enjoy a street band, an all-local beverage tent, a photo booth and more.
“It went really well,” said Karen Duguay, marketing director for the Better Middlebury Partnership, which organizes the festival. “Everywhere I looked, people were having fun. The weather held out for the day, there was a lot of great chili to try, including from several vendors who were participating for the first time, a good crowd of people — overall it was a really great day in Middlebury!”
More than 40 different restaurants, caterers and amateurs from around the region created chili for the event. For the first time, a panel of guest judges tasted the offerings and voted for their favorites based on flavor, texture and aroma. Cash prizes were awarded. Festival-goers also got to vote for their top choice, resulting in a “Crowd Favorite” award.
“The addition of judges changed things up a bit this year,” Duguay said. “It felt a little bit more like true food competition and it seemed like the vendors were excited about it.”
Overall Best Chili (and the $1,000 prize) went to the Middlebury restaurant The Lobby for its game chili. Second and third places in the Overall competition went to an Essex restaurant called Our House Bistro for its beef (second) and pork (third) chilies.
The People’s Choice nod went to Dean Rubright Property Management, which gave out its offerings at a booth called “The Chili Bar.”
HUNGRY FESTIVAL GOERS line up from Eric Jipner of Middlebury College’s Dining Services.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The other winners in judged competition were:
Best Beef: Our House Bistro; runners-up: Bluebird BBQ and Middlebury College.
Best Game: The Lobby; runner-up: Two Brothers Tavern.
Best Kitchen Sink: GW Tatro Construction; runners-up: Jessica’s/Swift House and Middlebury Inn.
Best Chicken: Dean Rubright Property Management; runner-up: Middlebury College.
Best Pork: Park Squeeze; runner-up: Our House Bistro.
Best Veggie: Tie between 51 Main and Waybury Inn; runner-up: Our House Bistro.
“I for one love seeing the streets of downtown Middlebury filled with people having fun and enjoying our town,” Duguay summed up, “and hopefully they continue to come back throughout the year.”
A CROWD OF 6,000 chili lovers was on hand for Saturday’s Vermont Chili Festival in downtown Middlebury.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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