The 18th annual Great Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-off will return to downtown Ithaca Saturday afternoon, bringing dozens of area chefs to the recently renovated Commons to serve up hot bowls of chili and compete for coveted prizes.
This year’s festival runs from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will also include local microbrews and wine, farm-fresh goods, karaoke, a beard and mustache competition, and an indoor Family Fun Zone featuring a roller skating rink.
This year’s selection of edibles will be as diverse and delectable as ever, with such special recipes as short rib chili, vegetarian roasted red pepper chili, chocolate-dipped pork belly, spicy chili pickles, and chili calzones.
The chili will be judged by a panel of local notables and all attendees will have a chance to vote for their favorite for the People’s Choice Award. Restaurateurs will be joined by local vintners and brewers, including Bandwagon, Bacchus and Six Mile Creek (don’t forget to bring your ID).
The Tompkins Trust Company, a longtime supporter of the Chili Cook-Off and this year’s presenting sponsor, will be taking Chili-Cook Off to a whole new level by converting the Center Ithaca lobby into a Family Fun Zone for the day, packed with free and affordable activities for the whole family. These include face painting, craft stations, and even indoor rollerskating!
Also new this year, the Finger Lakes School of Massage will be offering free massages from current students in the lobby of their brand-new location in the Rothschild Building at 215 E. State St.
Chili Idol Karaoke presented by Elephant Sound will run throughout the event on the stage of the Bernie Milton Pavilion. Sign up on the spot to belt out your favorite tune and compete for a trophy.
As you stroll the Commons, keep a lookout for world-renowned hypnotist Michael C. Anthony, who will be working the crowds to promote his 5 p.m. show at the State Theatre that evening – it has been described as “an avant-garde blend of the human psyche and eye-popping theatre” that will “surprise even the most hardened skeptic.”
From 3 to 3:30 p.m., the Ithaca Beard and Moustache Club-a local organization whose mission statement affirms that “with great facial hair comes great responsibility”-will host the 7th annual Chili Stache Competition, which this year will include such categories as “Crafty All Ages Chili Stache” and “Best Full Chili Beard.”
Presale tickets are available at the Downtown Visitors Center (171 E. State St.), at all Collegetown Bagels locations (203 N. Aurora St., 415 College Ave. and 329 Pine Tree Road) If you’re coming in from out of town, you can reserve tickets at will-call with your credit card by calling the Downtown Ithaca Alliance at (607) 277-8679. As always, you can purchase tickets on the day of the event (cash only.) Tickets are $5 for five tastes of wine, beer, and food, or $11 for ten tastes. At double the price, VIP tickets give you access to a separate, fast-moving line for tastes, plus a chili necklace.