It's going to be Chili this weekend in downtown Belleville

News-DemocratOctober 2, 2013 

The Swansea engineering company Thouvenot, Wade and Moerchen has chili-making down to a science.

First, employees bring different kinds to work and pick the one they want to enter in Belleville's annual Chili Cook-Off.

Then Vice President Randy Burk prepares do-it-yourself kits of ingredients and persuades co-workers to make batches of chili at home.

"We tell people to follow the exact recipe and not change anything," he said.

When all the chili powder settles, the company ends up with nearly 100 gallons.

"(This year's variety is) traditional," Burk said. "It's good. It's kind of meaty with a hint of garlic. It's not too spicy, but it's got a little kick."

TWM is one of 64 businesses and organizations that will sell chili and other food at the 30th annual cook-off.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce will close the square and portions of Illinois and Main streets to vehicles.

"There will be all types of chili," said chamber co-organizer Wendy Pfeil. "Traditional red, white, beanless, meatless. We'll have jerk pork and jerk chicken chili. That's new this year. ... The Boy Scouts are jumping on the bandwagon and making bacon chili."

The cook-off started with a few vendors on one block of East Main and now attracts an estimated 50,000 chili-lovers in good weather.

"Based on attendance, (it's) now the largest festival in Belleville," according to the website.

Many businesses and organizations raise money for charity. TWM supports Belleville BASIC youth programs. Proceeds from People's Choice Award donations go to the Community Interfaith Food Pantry.

This weekend's crowd will be entertained by the Big Boss Blues Band, Smash Band, Rough Ryders and Scott Air Force Base Band of Mid America Shades of Blue (if the government shutdown ends).

New this year is the Chili Chase 5K Run-Walk and Kids Pepper Dash, beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday.

"We've had several people ask us to add a run to the event, so this year we did," Pfeil said. "We're hoping the runners come out and support it."

Other activities will include a Junior Idol competition and YMCA-sponsored children's area with a climbing wall and bounce house.

This is the third year Ellis Grove Fire Department is competing at the cookoff. It used proceeds last year to buy a thermal-imaging camera that detects fire hot spots.

"We put the other half in a fire-truck fund," said volunteer Kenny Roche.

The firemen plan to make 300 to 400 gallons of traditional red chili and taco chili on the street this year, using two 30-gallon kettles.

The second recipe was developed by accident when Kenny's mother, Sherry, forgot chili powder one night and used taco seasoning instead.

"It's weird," Roche said. "It's got corn in it, taco seasoning and ranch dressing, along with the traditional beans and hamburger. But it's really good."

People commonly assume the fire department's chili is going to set their mouths ablaze.

Not true, Roche insists. "It's spicy, but it's not crazy."

At a glance

What: 30th Annual Chili Cook-Off

Where: Belleville Square, one block each of West Main, North and South Illinois and three blocks of East Main

When: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Admission: Free

Run-walk: 9 a.m. Saturday (fee is $25 in advance online or $30 on race day)

Information: 618-233-2015, bellevillechili.com

Chili Cook-Off schedule

FRIDAY

11 a.m. -- Chili vendors and beer stands open

Noon -- Music by Big Boss Blues Band

6 p.m. -- Music by Smash Band

9:30 p.m. -- Token booths and souvenir stand close

10 p.m. -- Beer stands close

10:30 p.m. -- Festival ends

SATURDAY

7:15 to 8:15 a.m. -- Registration for run-walk at Main and Church

9 a.m. -- Chili Chase 5K Run-Walk and Kids Pepper Dash

11 a.m. -- Chili vendors and beer stands open

11 a.m. -- Chili judging

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Children's area open in first block of South Illinois

1 p.m. -- Junior Idol competition

3 p.m. -- Scott Air Force Base Band of Mid America Shades of Blue (if government shutdown ends)

5 p.m. -- Cook-Off awards

6 p.m. -- Music by Rough Ryders

9:30 p.m. -- Token booths and souvenir stands close

10 p.m. -- Beer stands close

10:30 p.m. -- Festival ends

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