Chili Champs

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Cooks Compete at Annual Cookoff

They come from all around the country, bringing their pots, aprons and secret recipes— and hope to return home with trophies. For nearly three decades, the Massachusetts State Chili Cook-Off has tingled the taste buds of chili aficionados at Winchendon’s Bentley Field. Organized by the Winchendon Kiwanis Club, the event has become a summer mainstay here, with competitors vying for a chance to advance to the World Championship Chili Cook-Off in the fall.

It’s serious business for the competitors, whose chili is judged on consistency, flavor, aroma, color, blend of spices and other factors.

But for the hundreds of visitors who stop by to sample the red chili, green chili and salsa cooked up by the competitors, there’s much more to the day than fiery flavors.

The Winchendon cook-off is part of an Annual Fun Day, in which the focus is on families. It
includes clowns, moonwalks, games and entertainment. Formerly known as the Beast of the East, the popular event “was renamed because so many families come to enjoy an inexpensive day where the kids are the main attraction,” says Kiwanis member and cook-off organizer Bruce Cloutier.

This cook-off is held each year in August, and more than 50 competitors are expected to participate. In past years, those competitors have included previous world champions alongside newcomers. While judges will decide winners in each of the three categories, visitors can cast their ballots for a “people’s choice” award.

In addition to creating a good time for visitors, the event raises fund for Kiwanis children’s charities.

For details about this year’s event, check the Calendar section of this website.