Chili walk to spice up Buchanan

Published 9:21 am Thursday, March 13, 2014

Over 30 different types of chili were served at the Buchanan Chili Walk last year. (Submitted photo)

Over 30 different types of chili were served at the Buchanan Chili Walk last year. (Submitted photo)

BUCHANAN—For the eighth year running, the town of Buchanan is gearing up for its annual Chili Walk, which will take place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on March 20.

“It starts at the Buchanan District Library,” said Randy Hendrixson, executive director of the Buchanan Area Chamber of Commerce. “That’s where people can get their maps and ballot forms.”

The cost to participate in sampling and judging the chili recipes is $2. Then, event-goers will have the opportunity to follow their maps to various downtown businesses where they will receive 2-ounce chili samples.

“The $2 spoon fee will go to supporting the robotics program at Buchanan High School,” said Hendrixson. “They have a really great team, and we want them to succeed.”

Last year’s event was the biggest so far, and organizers are hoping that this year’s event will be even bigger.

“We’re really excited about it this year,” said Randy Hendrixson, executive director of the Buchanan Area Chamber of Commerce. “I hope we have great weather for it like we’ve had in years past.”

Although the chamber of commerce and sponsor LifeHouse Properties cannot do much to ensure that the weather will cooperate, they are working hard to make sure this event will be a success.

“It’s been growing every year,” Hendrixson said. “Last year, we had the most chilis ever—30 of them. It’s fun because they range from real traditional chilis to very exotic ones—super hot chilis. We even have dessert chilis.”

Last year’s event was well-attended, too, with Hendrixson estimating that between 300 and 500 people came into downtown Buchanan to sample and judge the chili recipes.

“We filled the downtown,” Hendrixson said. “It’s pretty impressive to see so many people out there, enjoying what our town has to offer.”

Contestants in the chili contest are typically business and organizations from the Buchanan area. If contestants do not have downtown storefronts, the Buchanan Area Chamber of Commerce will work to partner them with a business or organization that does. More information is available by calling the chamber at (269) 695-3291.

“The deadline to enter the contest is this week, but if there are late-comers, we’ll try to accommodate them,” Hendrixson said. “There’s plenty of room for more.”

Chili recipes will be eligible for three separate awards.

“We have two different ‘Golden Ladle’ awards—a judge’s choice and a people’s choice, and then there’s an award for the most creative name for a chili,” Hendrixson said.

The celebrity judges for this year’s contest will be D.J. “Wild Bill” from Y-Country, 97.5 F.M., Berrien County Sherriff Paul Bailey and Buchanan High School teacher Philip Place.

“We’re really excited to have Mr. Place as one of our judges. He is in charge of the tech club, and he oversees the robotics program. His students will be there as well,” Hendrixson said.

That robotics program will be the primary recipient of the proceeds from the Chili Walk.

“We’re donating some of our proceeds from the event to the robotics program,” Hendrixson said. “It’s a $5,000 to $7,000 investment to enter into the state competition. That’s just for the entrance fee and the robotics equipment. Outside of that, the team needs money for jerseys, hotel rooms and many other incidentals.”

Along with sampling a wide variety of chili recipes and supporting the students in Buchanan’s robotics club, Hendrixson hopes that visitors to the event will take advantage of promotions being offered by local businesses.

“We encourage all of the local eateries and pubs to run specials that day,” Hendrixson said. “We want people to taste the chili, and then we hope they will go out and eat at the same places they’ve had chili after the awards ceremony is over.”

Organizers also hope that visitors will take the opportunity to patronize some of the newer establishment in the downtown area.

“It’s a perfect chance for folks to come out and see how Buchanan is growing,” Hendrixson said. “Since our last Chili Walk, we’ve had 12 new businesses open up in downtown Buchanan.”