Competition Back at Dulles State Office Building for First Time Since 2020

(WATERTOWN, NY) — The Volunteer Transportation Center will host the return of its in-person portion of the Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off this Saturday, Feb. 25. This will mark the competition’s first year back at the Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“We’re really looking forward to being back at the Dulles State Office Building this Saturday,” said VTC Executive Director Sam Purington. “We know the community has missed this great, family-friendly event and so have we.”

The event — which will feature a mixture of amateur and professional chefs competing for prizes — will begin at 11 a.m. and run until 3 p.m. when awards will be presented. Each entry will be scored in various categories by a panel of local judges and attendees will be able to sample chili from each participant and cast their ballots for the People’s Choice Award.

Admission will be $6 for adults and $2 for children 12 years and younger. A family pass admission will be available for $15. This event is supported by Operation Yellow Ribbon, a volunteer-based committee that promotes visible signs of support for Soldiers and families. Therefore, military ID holders will receive a discount on admission.

“We’ve got a lot of great professional and amateur chefs lined up who are excited to share what they’ve been cooking up,” said Jeremiah S. Papineau, Director of Communications and Foundation Director for the VTC. “We’ve been looking forward to this since we last held our in-person event back in February of 2020.”

This Saturday’s in-person event caps off nearly a month of what has been a hybrid version of the cook-off. The first three weeks of February have consisted of a restaurant-to-restaurant format, seeing competition among participating restaurants and businesses in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties. The cook-off’s remote format again involved participating restaurants and businesses making available samples of their chili entries during regular hours of operation, with the public able to vote for their favorites. The format took the place of the in-person event for the past two years and, this year, was paired with the in-person event’s return. This year, more than 25 locations participated. Restaurants that participated included:

• Beese’s Depot Café, 13449 Depot Street, Adams Center
• Adams Country Club, 10700 U.S. Route 11, Adams
• The Dockside Pub, 11 Market Street, Alexandria Bay
• The Church Street Diner, 107 Church Street, Carthage
• Zero Dock Street Restaurant & Bar, 130 Canal Street, Carthage
• Whiskey Jack’s, 5454 Plumber Road, Constableville
• Red Rooster, 9861 State Route 812, Croghan
• Silver Leaf Diner, 3231 U.S. Route 11, DeKalb Junction
• Meme’s Diner, 31606 State Route 3, Felts Mills
• L.E.A’S Diner, 90 State Street, Heuvelton
• The Blue House, 3736 County Route 14, Madrid
• Route 68 Deli, 4962 State Route 68, Ogdensburg
• Smuggler’s Café, 54 East River Street, Ogdensburg
• Hoof & Horn Butcher and Eatery, 32 Market Street, Potsdam
• Plum Brook Café, 756 County Route 17, Russell
• The Sandwich Bar, 113 West Main Street, Sackets Harbor
• Tavern230, 4173 West Road, Turin
• Black Waters Café and Trading Post, 68 Ranger School Road, Wanakena
• Celest Jamaican Cuisine, 23746 State Route 342, Watertown
• Empire Square, 65 Public Square, Watertown
• Flavors of The Philippines, 568 Bradley Street, Watertown
• Johnny D’s, 1 Public Square, Watertown
• Panera Bread, 21872 Towne Center Drive, Watertown
• Pete’s Trattoria, 111 Breen Avenue, Watertown
• The Eatery, 65 Public Square, Watertown
• The Grille at Hilton Garden Inn, 1290 Arsenal Street, Watertown
• Two Hot Dogs, 71 Public Square, Watertown
• Jose O’Connor’s, 15 Bridge Street, West Carthage

Those who wanted to cast votes for their favorite entries in the remote format were able to do so in person by paper ballot or online through the VTC website. In addition, participating locations were again be able to compete for the Top Fundraiser Award by collecting donations for the Volunteer Transportation Center Foundation. Winners of both awards will be recognized at the in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building this Saturday.

The North Country Chili Cook-Off — chaired by Amy McEathron, owner and president of Independent Medical Evaluation Company, Carthage — is a great opportunity to enjoy some amazing chili and raise funds for the Volunteer Transportation Center, specifically in its transportation of Veterans and their family members by dedicated volunteer drivers.

“We invite everyone to enjoy the chili and help transport our Veterans at a great family fun event,” said Mrs. McEathron, who also serves as a representative of The American Legion Family, which founded the cook-off with the VTC nearly 25 years ago. “The American Legion Family would like to thank the community for its support. We truly appreciate everyone who has supported this event in its modified format that last few years, including our local Veterans organizations.”

The 24th Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off is supported by “Underwriting Level Sponsors” Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Watertown Savings Bank, Stewart’s Shops, Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, United Food Service Operators, WWNY-TV 7News/Fox28/MeTV, Tunes 92.5/Intrepid Broadcasting, Runningboards Marketing, NNY360/Watertown Daily Times, Victory Promotions, and The American Legion Family.

Additional support comes from “Platinum Level Sponsors” AmeriCU Credit Union, Kinney Drugs Foundation, Price Chopper, Purcell Construction Corp., Samaritan Medical Center, The ARC of Jefferson-St. Lawrence, Watertown Internists, and Haun Welding. “Gold Level Sponsors” include Benefit Services Group/OneDigital, Black Horse Group, Colello Air Technologies, Disabled Persons Action Organization, Keller Williams-Amy Kenney, Knowlton Technologies, NFP Corp., State CS Employee Federal Credit Union, and Waite Toyota.

“Silver Level Sponsors” include American Legion Post 1788; American Legion Post 583; American Legion Post 588 SAL; American Legion Post 789 Auxiliary; American Legion Post 832; American Legion Post 904 SAL; Barrett Paving Materials; Carthage Area Hospital; Cazenovia Equipment Company; Cheney Tire; Chimera Integrations; Community Bank, N.A.; DOCO Quick Print/Midgley Printing; Fuller Insurance Agency; GEICO Insurance; GYMO Architecture, Engineering, & Land Surveying, D.P.C.; Haylor, Freyer, & Coon; Lake Ontario Realty; Northern Credit Union; RBC Wealth Management; Slack Chemical Company; Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists; Transitional Living Services of NNY; and Watertown Hearing Aid Center.

“Friends of the Cook-Off Sponsors” include American Legion Post 1757 Sons of the American Legion; American Legion Post 583 Auxiliary; American Legion Post 586; American Legion Post 586 Auxiliary; American Legion Post 586 SAL; AMVETS Post 265; Clayton Lions Club; Hospice of Jefferson County; Jake Johnson Properties; Lowville Elks Lodge 1605; Meade Optical; Moose Knuckles; Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1231; Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6338; Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7227 Auxiliary; Watertown Elks Lodge 496; and Weldon & Trimper Law Firm. In-kind support has been provided by Blue Mountain Spring Water, Doldo Bros., Dunkin’, Gray’s Flower Shop, Hannaford Supermarket, JRECK Subs, McQuade & Bannigan/The Sign Shop, Mud Pie Designs (Jessica Sheldon), Panera Bread, Pepsi Bottling Group, Sam’s Club, Staples, The Coughlin Group, and ZAPET Vibrations (Tom Ellis).

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.

For more information about the 24th Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off, contact Mr. Papineau at 315-303-2590 or via email at Additional information is available on-line at


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. Data from 2022 is currently being compiled.

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