For the fifth year in a row, the Belleville Fire Department won the People's Choice award at the annual Chili Cookoff event in downtown Belleville.
As the name implies, the award is voted on by attendees, who can cast as many votes as they wish for $1 each. The Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce matched the $1,800 garnered by the votes, and $3,600 will be donated to the Community Interfaith Food Pantry in Belleville.
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert and Chamber Executive Director John Lengerman announced the winners Saturday night. In the restaurant category, Roy-El Catering in Belleville won first place; 17th Street BBQ in O'Fallon came in second; and the Acropolis in Belleville placed third.
In the nonprofit category, first-time participant St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis took first place; the Optimist Club of Belleville placed second, and St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Belleville came in third.
Eckert said attendance at this year's event was high. "(Friday) was probably one of the largest crowds downtown Belleville has ever had," he said.