UPDATE: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this event has been postponed indefinitely. We'll let you know when it's rescheduled!
The Great Ypsilanti Chili Cookoff will revive what organizer Jessica French calls "an Ypsilanti institution" while also benefiting the Michigan Firehouse Museum, located at 110 W. Cross St. in Ypsi. The event, which takes place from 3-5:30 p.m. March 14, is hosted by the Depot Town Community Development Corporation.
"We've had this chili challenge event in several different forms," French says. It has been hosted at the museum in the past and also has also functioned as a traveling event, where participants went from restaurant to restaurant tasting the chili at each location, she says.
The committee that organized the last chili cookoff three years ago doesn't exist anymore, French says. As a member of the Depot Town CDC, she responded to a request from a Facebook user to revive the challenge.
A full list of participating restaurants at this year's event is still being firmed up but will be announced on the Facebook event page sometime this week, French says.
"You can expect the list to include all the best restaurants in Ypsilanti," she says.
Children 10 and under can eat for free. All others will pay $12 to taste the competing chilis. A panel of local celebrities will judge the food. French says the organizers are keeping the judges' names a secret until the day of the event, but hints that the lineup will include "a pretty distinguished list of Ypsilanti personalities, including politicians and creative dignitaries."
The event will also include a 50/50 raffle and a cash bar. Proceeds from ticket sales and the raffle will benefit the Michigan Firehouse Museum.
"So many people in our community don't know what the museum contains or how this is an incredible first-class museum run by a group of volunteers that truly care and have a passion for the history of Michigan firefighting," she says. "It's such a neat thing to have in the community."
Tickets will be available at the door on the day of the event, but organizers encourage attendees to purchase tickets in advance through Eventbrite so participating restaurants will know how much chili to cook for the event. French says she expects at least 100 attendees but notes that past chili challenges have attracted more than 200.
More information is available at the Facebook event page.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.