Who makes the best chili in downtown Three Rivers? Judge for yourself Saturday at the Chili Cook-Off

Over a dozen businesses are bringing the heat this weekend to the Downtown Three Rivers Chili Cook-Off with proceeds from the event going toward two community projects. Hosted by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) on Saturday, March 4, local merchants will craft their own versions of an award-winning chili recipe to be tasted and judged by the public.

To begin this culinary adventure, attendees will check-in at the DDA Chili Cook-Off booth, which will be located in front of the DDA offices at 57 N. Main Street. The cost to participate is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

The event will begin at noon, and attendees will be invited to first check-in at the DDA event table to purchase a tasting spoon and voting card. Participants will then have four hours to visit the 17 competing businesses and receiving a tasting portion of each chili. Attendees then return to the DDA booth and drop the voting card into a jar of the chosen business. Prizes will be awarded for first, second, and third place chili recipes with trophies being delivered and announced on the Downtown Three Rivers Facebook page at 4:30 p.m.

Cameron Mains, director of the DDA, tells Watershed Voice 50% of the proceeds from the event will go to the Three Rivers Food Site, a 501c3 non-profit corporation organized to provide food assistance to eligible families and individuals within the city. With an emphasis on emergency food needs, the site is organized exclusively for charitable purposes and strives to provide seven days of food on a monthly basis as supplies allow. 

The remaining 50% of proceeds from the event will go toward the development of a downtown dog park near the skate park and Peeler Street Bridge, a project being driven by the DDA’s Design Committee. The committee focuses on the aesthetics of Three Rivers’ historic downtown district, and is working with the Public Spaces Community Places grant to achieve this new addition to downtown. The grant requires the DDA to crowd fund 50% of the total project cost in order for the state to match the remaining 50%. The Chili Cook Off event is the kick-off fundraiser for the project, and Mains says he hopes to have the new dog park installed by September.

Giving credit to those who have helped the idea become a reality, Mains thanks Lisa DeVine, local artist and president of the Three Rivers Artist Guild, for designing the event posters and voting card graphics. He also thanks Brenda Higgins who volunteered as the Chili Cook-Off lead for going above and beyond with her work on the event. Lastly, Mains gave a special “shout out” to Daly Broekema, owner of Daly Dope, for investing back into the community and being the event sponsor.

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.