Ready, aim, taste

Published 3:53 pm Thursday, January 26, 2012

The stakes are getting higher for a hot battle in Dowagiac.

As Dowagiac’s 16th annual Ice Time festival returns to the central business district Feb. 4, organizers have upped the award money for its Amateur Chili Cook-off.

The first-place winner will win a $50 Universal Dowagiac Gift Certificate. Second place will receive $25 with the third-place finisher receiving $10.

According to festival organizers, the first documented chili cook-off took place in 1967 in Terlingua, a remote ghost town in Texas.

Like gossip, the idea spread. Since then, communities large and small have hosted competitions. Here in Michigan, while some love it hot, others like it mild, though most agree it’s one of the best ways to warm up on a blustery winter afternoon.

“If you have a great recipe for chili, this is your opportunity to lay claim to the best homemade chili in town,” Badner said.

The amateur division is open to home cooks, ages 18 to 108. Advance registration forms are available at the Chamber in the train depot or by calling the office at 782-8212.

A $5 nonrefundable entry fee is required by Monday.

“While amateurs are planning their strategy, local restaurateurs will tell you there’s nothing mild about the festival’s Professional Chili Cook-off that sends long-time competitors back to the kitchen to make their best recipes,” Badner said.

The Professional Chili Cook-off is open to the public free of charge, with sample-size containers served from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 4.

Host sites are located downtown or within easy walking distance to the central business district, which is why locals refer to this popular auxiliary event as “the chili crawl.”

Patti Badner, co-charman of the festival, said five-time winner Beeson Street Bar and Grill, which gave up the traveling trophy to 2011 winner Wood Fire Italian Trattoria, was the first restaurant to sign up for this year’s challenge in hopes of bringing back the trophy. Zeke’s Restaurant, Wounded Minnow Saloon and Dowagiac Eagles have also signed up.

Ice Time Festival Events

• Ice-carving competitions

• Winter Hibernation and Pajama Sale

• Ladies Library Association winter book sale

• Timber carving demonstration and silent art auction

• An exhibition by Fruitbelt Wood Carvers at Round Oak Restaurant

• Good Smokin’ Barbecue at the Hot Spot warming station on Commercial Street

• S’mores over a campfire

• Children’s events at The Gift of Namaste, The Red Raven and Who Knew? Consignment