WORTHINGTON — With Winterfest right around the corner, organizers are calling for entries for the Red Hot Chili Cook-off, the kickoff event of the annual winter celebration, which takes place beginning at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17 at the Worthington Event Center.

"It has grown to be a really fun event," said Darlene Macklin, executive director of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. She added that it's a great way to begin Winterfest, looking forward to the Saturday events.

Up to 27 teams may enter the chili cook-off. Each must make at least 18 quarts of chili in a roaster — no slow cookers allowed. The Chamber will check out roasters to teams that do not have one, with a deposit required.

When each team registers, it will be assigned either Hy-Vee or Fareway for its shopping, and must turn in the receipt for groceries purchased.

Cups and spoons for sampling are provided by the cook-off organizers.

To determine the top three chilis, a committee selects several judges to evaluate the entries on the criteria of aroma, color, consistency, taste and aftertaste. Teams will also be judged on the creativity of their booth decoration. Judges are not told which chili belongs to which team during the sampling process, to ensure objectivity.

The first-place winner will receive $100 to Hy-Vee and Fareway; second place, $50; and third place, $25.

The public is also invited to sample each chili and vote on a People's Choice winner.

"The public loves to come out and try the chili," Macklin said.

Setup begins at 3 p.m. on the 17th. Judging takes place at 4 p.m., and public tasting is at 5 p.m.

Entries for the cook-off are accepted through this Friday, or until all 27 slots are filled. To register, visit the Chamber office at 1121 Third Avenue, call 372-2919 or email wcofc@worthingtonmnchamber.com.