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

        (WATERTOWN, NY) – The Volunteer Transportation Center Foundation will mark the 25th anniversary of its Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off this February. The event will return in the hybrid format it adopted last February, being offered first at participating restaurants and businesses in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties and culminating with its in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown.

        “We’re excited to be back for what will be our 25th anniversary of this fun community event and crucial fundraiser,” said Jeremiah S. Papineau, Director of Communications and Foundation Director for the VTC. “We had great success last year by marrying the restaurant-to-restaurant format we offered during the COVID-19 pandemic with our traditional in-person event. It was the best of both worlds.”

        The North Country Chili Cook-Off has historically been a one-day event at the Dulles State Office Building, held on the first Saturday in February. However, as Mr. Papineau stated, the event was modified during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 to focus on hosting a month-long competition among participating restaurants and businesses in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties throughout February. That format repeated in 2022 while large gatherings were still frowned upon and, earlier this year, the VTC merged the two formats, with nearly 30 restaurants in the tri-county area participating and 17 teams competing at the Dulles State Office Building.

        “The restaurant-to-restaurant format started as a way to keep the spirit of our event alive until we got back to our in-person event and as a way to shine a light on local businesses as they were facing challenges brought on by restrictions related to the pandemic,” said Mr. Papineau. “It became so popular we decided it made sense to keep that format going as a way to lead up to our in-person event.”

        The North Country Chili Cook-Off will return in February starting with its restaurant-to-restaurant format Thursday, Feb. 1, which will run through Wednesday, Feb. 21. 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. 24.

        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 amateur and professional 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 to register for the cook-off is Friday, Jan. 12.

        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. 12.

        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.       


        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 2022, volunteer drivers provided 26,487 charitable trips over 878,240 miles in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties. Of those miles, 376,604 helped those in Jefferson County, 137,743 in Lewis County, and 363,893 in St. Lawrence County. That equated to approximately $439,120 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, 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.