Cook-off kicking off

WORTHINGTON -- Though the weather outside is chilly, it's the chili inside that's making headlines. The 2016 Winterfest Chili Cook-Off is just around the corner and the deadline for registration is Friday.


WORTHINGTON - Though the weather outside is chilly, it’s the chili inside that’s making headlines. The 2016 Winterfest Chili Cook-Off is just around the corner and the deadline for registration is Friday.

Andy Johnson, chair of the Winterfest committee, is already anticipating the fun.
“Winterfest is Friday, Jan. 22, and Saturday, Jan. 23, from 5-7 p.m.” Johnson explained. “The Chili Cook-Off on Friday evening at the Worthington Event Center is the kickoff for the opening ceremonies. The cook-off is open to anybody - businesses or groups, families, individuals, whoever.”
The cook-off is now in its third year. Participation doubled last year, and Johnson said he hopes it will grow even more. A maximum of 25 teams will be accepted.
Registrations will be taken after Friday if the maximum number of teams has yet to be reached. Each team must provide a minimum of three gallons of chili with judging based on aroma, color, consistency, taste and aftertaste. Celebrity judging - with judges yet to be announced - begins at 4:30 p.m., but the official judges are not the only opinions that count in this annual event.

“We will have prizes for the People’s Choice award, and people can vote on booths, too,” Johnson said. “Each booth is decorated, and it’s really fun to see what people do for that. There’s lots of creativity to be seen. It’s a real festive atmosphere.”
First- through third-place awards will be given, with the winners of the Best Chili (as determined by the judges) receiving $100 gift cards to both Hy-Vee and Fareway. Second place earns $50 cards to each store; third place garners $25 cards.
“When teams sign up, they will be assigned to a store - either Hy-Vee or Fareway,” Johnson said. “Those stores are the prize sponsors. Then, if they turn in all of their receipts from their assigned store, the registration fee will be waived. Otherwise, the registration fee is $150.”
Johnson and the other members of the Winterfest committee encourage people to get creative with their entries.
“We’ve had venison chili, white chili - you name it,” he said. “People should pull out their favorite Super Bowl chili recipe, their grandma’s recipe, whatever. The old adage that ‘I’ll never win’ isn’t true - anyone can win, and everyone will have a great time. It’s a fun competition, a fun community thing.
“We want to encourage individuals, teams, etc. to do this,” Johnson enthused. “It’s a great way to celebrate our community. Plus, it gives us all something to do in the long winter months, to get us out of our houses and out in the community. We hope it will bring people to our town, and that Winterfest will grow more and more in the future.”
While both official and unofficial judges savor the chili, they can enjoy watching the crowning of 2016’s Winterfest Queen, Princess and - new this year - a Prince.
The evening is also the perfect time to register for the 2-Mile Walk (sponsored by the YMCA) or turn in Deep Freeze Dip money, two events scheduled to take place Jan. 23 at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively. The Deep Freeze Dip is a fundrasier for Project Lifesaver, which supports tracking bands for individuals with Alzheimers, autism, and dementia at no cost to them or their families. Matching grants up to $14,000 have been secured from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation.
Additional events Saturday are the SW MN Ice Fishing Tournament (weather permitting, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.); the Girls Basketball Classic (third- through eighth-graders can participate, 8 a.m.); Snow Kite Racing (TBD); Snowmobile Show & Shine (noon); Pond Hockey Tournament (TBD); and the Warming Party at Hickory Lodge beginning at 7 p.m.

Register by Jan. 8 by stopping in at the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce (1121 Third Ave., Worthington), calling 372-2919 or by e-mail at .

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