If you have yet to experience a ChiliFest, you are seriously missing out. Every year Ithaca hosts the Annual Great Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-off in The Commons, which features the cream of the crop of chili creations. The restaurants never fail to impress, and this year was no exception.
This year marked the 14th annual celebration, with over 38 competitors serving everything from pulled pork chili to chili stix to chili chocolates. The Commons was overflowing with people all day, despite the threatening weather.
Perri Gross, senior art major, said she loves all of Ithaca’s festivals, but ChiliFest is her favorite by far.
“It’s the best of the fests,” she says. “Even though it was cold out and the lines were long, that hot chili was so worth it. I love chili fest.”
The festival kicked off at 11:30 a.m. and had the festival photo booth, street performers and Chili Idol Karaoke all day long. At 2:30 WICB broadcasted the Hot Pepper Show Down, which was a crowd favorite and slowed walking traffic down significantly.
Andrew Buraczenski, WICB promotions director, said the crowds were incredible all day long and he was surprised by the hoards of people constantly flowing through the middle of the commons.
“I was standing on the stage the whole time and even I felt overwhelmed by the crowd,” he says. “This is such a great turnout for a really fun event.”
Local organizations were also in attendance, including the Ithaca College online radio station, VIC Radio, the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail and Three Brother’s Wineries.
Those who seemed to have the best time were those students who were up for the weekend visiting friends at Cornell University and Ithaca College. Jackie Malecki, a student at Bentley University in Massachusetts, said she has never experienced anything like Chilifest before and wishes her town had a festival like it.
“This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen,” Malecki says. “I don’t even like chili and I am so excited about this. I have never seen so many people so crazy about chili.”
At the end of the festival, the winners were announced:
Best Meat Chili:
Best Veggie Chili:
Best Other Chili Item:
Despite the long lines and sporadic rain fall, the commons remained stuffed to the max with ecstatic chili lovers and local Ithacans alike in the hopes of finding the very best chili. Judging by the looks on their faces, they were successful.
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