Decades of deliciousness: Alton Chili Cookoff hits Elijah P's
ALTON - After being created by the United Way decades ago, the Alton Chili Cookoff has been passed from organization to organization, currently finding its place in the loving arms of Alton Main Street, who hosts it at Elijah P's.
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Alton Main Street Executive Director Sara McGibany said this fifth year of the organization's involvement seemed as good, if not better, than its previous incarnations. This year was the second year it has been held at Elijah P's.
"It's similar in size to last year," McGibany said. "This year, we split the 23 teams pretty evenly between the warehouse and the patio. Last year, there was more in the warehouse, so people would come out of it too full to try the chili on the patio."
This year's entry of 23 teams is five more than last year's 18. Teams are split into four categories for judging: organizations, businesses, individuals and restaurants. Each winner of each category receives $100. A people's choice winner, chosen by tickets being dropped into respective buckets, also receives $100. A final $100 prize is also awarded for the best-decorated table.
Chili came in all sorts of varieties at the event, from the traditional to the experimental. The Pump House Bar and Grill of Wood River, entered a spicy brisket chili they are about to debut on the menu. It was spiced with peppers grown by someone just behind their establishment. They said they offset the heat with a little bit of chocolate.
Ryan and Missy Long of Cobra Kai Ink entered a Thai-inspired chili with lemongrass, coconut milk, curry, turmeric and plenty of spice.
"We wanted to go another direction from other chilis," Ryan Long said.
Missy Long said the duo had given away more than 150 samples just before 1 p.m. The event started at noon.
Drew and Hope Mader said they had given away nearly 200 samples of their "Rock the Hops-apeno" chili. The two named their chili after the Alton summer concert, beer and art festival, Rock the Hops, which they began.
"It's the best white chicken chili you will ever eat," Hope Mader guaranteed.
The ingredients of their chili are all locally-sourced. It featured chicken and bacon from Livespring Farms and garlic and peppers from La Vista Farm, CSA.
Jordan "Hot-Man Chili Meister" Pfeifer said he had sold more than 200 tickets by 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Pfeifer was the project coordinator who worked with Alton Main Street to make the event possible. He said work constraints kept him from doing as much as he would have liked, but he gave his time Saturday to set up the event, ensure the lines flowed, sell tickets and stamp hands.
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