Huge crowds enjoy 49 varieties of chili

MIDDLEBURY — Downtown Middlebury was a mob scene on Saturday afternoon as an estimated 6,000 people filled Main Street from the Community House to the traffic circle to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the eighth annual Vermont Chili Festival.
The event brought people from many parts of the state to Middlebury to taste 49 chilies from 35 vendors, enjoy a street band and bask in a lot of local flavor.
“The streets were packed, it certainly seemed like the biggest one to me,” said Karen Duguay, marketing director for the Better Middlebury Partnership, which organizes the festival. “It really brings the community out; it has the sense of a big block party.”
BURLINGTON’S SAMBA STREET band Sambatucada! performs in front of the Ilsley Library in downtown Middlebury during Saturday’s annual Vermont Chili Festival.
She emphasized that the Chili Festival is led by volunteers (including chair of the ChiliFest Committee Wendy Hirdler) and the 95 percent of all the work that goes into this huge event is done by volunteers.
“This is really incredible the number of people it brings to the community, I’m blown away by the number of people who give their time and efforts in this way,” Duguay said.
Overall Best Chili (and the $1,000 prize) went to the Middlebury restaurant Sabai Sabai for its “kitchen sink” chili. Second place in the Overall competition went to Middlebury’s Two Brothers Tavern for its beef chili and third was the pork chili from Park Squeeze of Vergennes.
Sabai Sabai, in its first year in the competition, also won the People’s Choice Award. The restaurant owners were so impressed that they said they are considering putting their winning chili on the menu.
The other winners in judged competition were:
Best Pork: Park Squeeze (runners up Our House).
Best Game: The Lobby (runners up Common Ground).
Best Chicken: Indulge Salon (runners up Middlebury College).
Best Beef: Middlebury College Brisket (runners up The Diner).
Best Veggie: La Boca Wood Fired Pizza (runners up Middlebury Foods).
Best Kitchen Sink: Sabai Sabai (runners up Our House) .
Best Booth: Our House.

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