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Chili Cook-Off will bring 60-75K downtown this weekend

It's time for the 33rd Annual Belleville Chili Cook Off

Get ready for some fall weather, live music and award-winning chili. The chili cook off started at 11 a.m. Friday and continues Saturday. Bring your lawn chairs and your appetites.
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Get ready for some fall weather, live music and award-winning chili. The chili cook off started at 11 a.m. Friday and continues Saturday. Bring your lawn chairs and your appetites.

When it all comes together every year, the downtown Belleville Chili Cook-Off adds up to a lot of fun, food, talent and music.

For 2016, the festival runs from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday with an early start for the Chili Chase 5K Run.

Here’s how the numbers stack up:

33rd — Year of the Cook-Off, taking up real estate around the Public Square and part of East Main Street.

63 — Vendor booths you can eat your way through, most offering chili, but also bratwurst, gyros, pulled pork and more. Plus, to satisfy a sweet tooth, you’ll find indulgences like ice cream, cotton candy, funnel cake, shaved ice and more.

46 — Chili competitors (out of the 63 vendors) taking part in the cook-off competition for bragging rights. Twenty will compete in the restaurants/caterer category and 26 represent the non-food service business/organization category. First, second and third places will be handed out in each.

$1— Equals one vote for your winner in the People’s Choice Award. Festival attendees can vote for their favorite chili at that vendor’s booth. The money raised is donated to the Community Interfaith Food Pantry.

60,000 to 75,000 — Estimated attendance, says Wendy Pfeil, executive director of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the annual festival. Remember, traffic will be blocked off at the Public Square.

$200,000 — Raised for local charities over the past eight years from the sale of chili at the festival. That’s an estimated amount, said Wendy, who’s in her eighth year putting the event together. Each vendor makes its own contribution.

6 — Chili Cook-Off judges for 2016, including Derek Betz, of Fletcher’s Kitchen & Tap in Belleville; Leisa Brockman, head of the culinary program at Southwestern Illinois College; and Chris Eckert, of Eckert’s Inc.

4 — Bands will play Friday and Saturday, including the popular Well Hungarians (6 p.m. Friday) and the USAF Band of Mid-America-Starlifter (3 p.m. Saturday).

7th — Year for the Children’s Area along South Illinois Street. Kids can work off some energy on a rock wall or in a bounce house. They also can take part in some mini exercise drills and aerobic activities, all put together by the Belleville YMCA.

4th — Year for the Chili Chase 5K Run/Walk and the Kids Pepper Dash (ages 13 and under). Takes off Saturday at 9 a.m. from East Main and Church streets. Kids run is at 1 0a.m.Late registration fee is $30 (run) and $5 (dash) day of the run.

10th — Year of the Junior Idol Competition, which takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday. Make sure to stop by to hear talented youngsters sing in two age categories (10 to 13 and 14 to 17).

1 — Token will buy you a 16-ounce domestic beer and other adult beverages. Tokens are $4 each or 3 for $10 and can be purchased at the token booths at the festival.

Belleville Chili Cook-Off schedule

Friday, Oct. 7

All events on main stage unless otherwise note.

11 a.m. — Festival opens

Noon — Fanfare

3:15 p.m. — Chili judging

6 p.m. — Well Hungarians

10:30 p.m. — Festival closes

Saturday, Oct. 8

9 a.m. — Chili Chase 5K run

11 a.m. — Festival; children’s area opens on South Illinois Street

1 p.m. — Junior Idol Competition

3 p.m. — USAF Band of Mid-America-Starlifter

5 p.m. — Chili Cook-Off awards announced

6 p.m. — Queens Boulevard, East Main Street stage

10:30 p.m. — Festival closes