Spoons out for Downtown Chili Challenge | SteamboatToday.com

Spoons out for Downtown Chili Challenge

Mary Kay Monger serves up chili at the Routt County Cattlewomen booth Saturday during the Steamboat Downtown Chili Challenge. The group won the People's Choice award.
Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Fall is officially here, and Steamboat Springs is kicking it off with the annual Downtown Chili Challenge from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28. Each year, the participants, who range from local restaurant chefs to regular chili-loving locals, come out in droves to wow Steamboat with their best chili recipes.

This year, there will be 15 participants, making both red and green chili, cornbread and salsa, and they’re all hoping for the People’s Choice Award.

“That’s the award that really counts,” said Lisa Popovich, executive director of Main Street Steamboat, the organization that hosts the event each year.

There is also a blind taste test award, given out by an expert panel of judges consisting of chefs and, according to Popovich, “people who just really like chili.”

Attendees can purchase a $10 tasting kit and taste each chili entry and cast a vote for the People’s Choice Award in both the red and green chili categories.

So what does it take to win? There’s no fee to enter, but it takes a whole lot of chili.

“Anyone can enter,” Popovich said. “But you need to make about 15 gallons of chili if you want a chance to win. You can enter with just 5 gallons, but you’ll probably run out, and then people can’t try it and vote for you.”

If you go

What: 2019 Downtown Chili Challenge
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28
Where: Seventh Street, downtown Steamboat Springs
Tickets: $10 with tasting kit

Past winner Pete List will be back this year to defend his title. List was previously the executive chef at Sweet Pea when he won the challenge two years ago. Now, he is the head chef at Snow Bowl, and while he can’t tell us what his recipe is, he knows that it’s good.

“The participants get really competitive about this,” Popovich said. “Things can get heated.” No pun intended.

In addition to chili, there will be local beer, yard games and live music from local musicians Rural Wreckage and the Steve Boynton Trio. The Boy Scouts will be there, too, doing their annual cow plop event, and if you haven’t gotten enough of the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market this summer, there will be a few vegetable stands lining the street as well.

“It’s just a fun, silly event where you can grab a beer, eat some chili and hang out downtown with your friends,” Popovich said.

Proceeds from the Chili Challenge benefit local events, such as the Halloween Stroll, Light up the Night, Santa’s House and the lights that line Lincoln Avenue in the winter.

As Popovich points out, Main Street Steamboat isn’t just a business advocacy group. In fact, they need to raise $20,000 each year to put the lights up on Lincoln Avenue all winter long.

“Downtown is for all of us, not just for visitors and guests,” Popovich said. “So, we’re hoping we get a good turnout this weekend, have some fun and eat some chili. This is such a fun event that brings our community together in a different way.”

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