The rainy weather Saturday did not deter thousands of residents from attending the 34th annual Belleville Chili Cook-off downtown.
Sixty-three total vendors set up around the Public Square, with at least 40 different booths featuring unique chili recipes. Attendees cast their votes for three different categories: best chili for restaurants, best chili for non-restaurants and a People’s Choice Award, which people pay one dollar to vote for.
This year, there was an upset in the non-food service category as Emmanuel Free Will Baptist Church, of East St. Louis, snagged first place over the O’Fallon Sportmen’s Club, which had won three years in a row.
The O’Fallon Sportsmen’s Club came in third place, winning $100. The St. Clair County Bar Association placed second.
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Barbara McCray, a member of first-place winner Emmanuel Free Will Baptist Church, said they have been looking forward to winning since they joined the cook-off five years ago.
“This morning we were like, ‘It’s gonna happen; it’s gonna happen,’” McCray said.
In the restaurant category, Belleville’s the EDGE placed third; Horseshoe Restaurant and Lounge, of O’Fallon, grabbed second; and the Arbor Restaurant at Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville won for the second straight year.
The fast-food chain Wendy’s won the People’s Choice Award, which raised $2,250 for the Community Interfaith Food Pantry of Belleville.
Wendy Pfeil, executive director of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce, said while they did not have an official count yet, she estimates about 60,000 people attended the cook-off.
“It’s such an enjoyable family event. We really appreciate everyone coming out and our volunteers for all their help,” Pfeil said.