Event to Return to Dulles State Office Building, Host Area Competition

(WATERTOWN, NY) – The Volunteer Transportation Center will mark the return of its Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off in a hybrid format that will include bringing back its in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building.

“We are very excited about this news,” said Jeremiah S. Papineau, Director of Communications and Foundation Director for the VTC. “We had great success over the past two years as we had to adapt to a different format but we are looking forward to what we’ve got planned to bring together the best of both worlds.”

The North Country Chili Cook-Off – which will celebrate its 24th year – has historically been a one-day event at the Dulles State Office Building, held on the first Saturday in February. However, the event has been held in a modified format for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The “pub crawl” format focused on hosting a month-long competition among participating restaurants and businesses in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties throughout February. Last year, more than 30 locations participated and it’s the hope that participation will continue as the event returns in a hybrid format.

“We’ve enjoyed seeing these local restaurants and businesses participate and seeing how that format has brought people to their establishments,” said Mr. Papineau, “especially as they were feeling the economic effects of the pandemic. We’re hoping they will continue to participate as we bring back our traditional cook-off and combine the two formats.”

The North Country Chili Cook-Off will return in February starting with its “pub crawl” format Wednesday, Feb. 1, which will run through Wednesday, Feb. 22. Participating restaurants and businesses will make available samples of their chili entries during regular hours of operation during that time and the public will be able to vote for their favorite entries. The entry with the most votes will receive a plaque denoting them winner of the People’s Choice Award for the tri-county competition. In addition, participating locations will again be able to compete for the Top Fundraiser Award by collecting donations for the Volunteer Transportation Center Foundation. The participating team with the highest amount raised will receive this special recognition. Winners of both awards will be recognized at the in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building on Saturday, Feb. 25.

“When looking at how we wanted to bring together what has been great about both formats, we decided we wanted to keep the competition going at each participating location and bring everything together with our big in-person event at the end of the month,” said Mr. Papineau. “It’s a way to build excitement all month long and celebrate the return of our in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building.”

And with that return means the return of amateur and professional chefs competing the day of the in-person event. In addition to signing up restaurants and businesses interested in being participating locations for its off-site portion of the cook-off, the VTC is hosting registration for teams interested in competing in its in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building. The in-person event can accept a maximum of 35 teams. Each entry at the in-person event will be scored by a panel of local judges, with winners taking home top bragging rights and cash prizes.

Those wishing to enter the competition at the Dulles State Office Building must complete an entry packet and those wishing to be a participating location for the tri-county competition must register in advance. The registration process for each may be started online at www.volunteertransportationcenter.org or by calling Mr. Papineau at 315-303-2590. Information may also be requested via email to foundation@volunteertransportation.org. Additional paperwork will be provided once the initial registration form has been received. The deadline for entries in the cook-off is Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

In addition, sponsors are being sought for this event, with those interested encouraged to reach out to Mr. Papineau by phone or email. The deadline for sponsorships is also Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

Proceeds of the North Country Chili Cook-Off will benefit the Volunteer Transportation Center, which provides essential rides to health care appointments, grocery shopping, and other destinations for residents with no transportation alternatives. Funds raised through the cook-off are earmarked to provide transportation to veterans and their family members, which make up roughly one-third of those transported by volunteer drivers through the VTC.

ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER TRANSPORTATION CENTER

The Volunteer Transportation Center, Inc. (VTC), established in 1991, drives thousands of miles each year assisting community members in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties and beyond. Over the last 30 years, this essential non-profit organization has provided rides to health care appointments, food sources and other critical needs destinations for residents. In 2021, VTC volunteer drivers provided 26,711 charitable trips over 1,073,435 miles in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties. Of those miles, 470,002 helped those in Jefferson County, 151,954 in Lewis County, and 451,479 in St. Lawrence County. That equated to approximately $477,679 in mileage reimbursement for our volunteers.

The staff, boards of directors and volunteer drivers look forward to a time when transportation to community activities and services is accessible to all North Country residents regardless of economic or specialized needs. But for now the mission drives on — striving to provide transportation to health, wellness and critical needs destinations utilizing volunteers and mobility management for anyone who has barriers to transportation.

For more information about how you can help the Volunteer Transportation Center, about its upcoming events, or to become a volunteer driver, contact the agency in Jefferson and Lewis Counties at 315-788-0422, in St. Lawrence County at 315-714-2034, in Oswego County at 315-644-6944, or Western New York at 585-250-5030. Volunteers drive their own cars, set their own hours and receive mileage reimbursement but, more importantly, make a difference in the community. To learn more, visit www.volunteertransportationcenter.org.