Competition to Celebrate 25th Anniversary at Dulles State Office Building

(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. 24. The event will be held at the Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St.

“We’re excited to back at the Dulles State Office Building this Saturday,” said VTC Executive Director Sam Purington. “We were back in person last year for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the community showed how much they had missed this event. It was really great to see.”

The cook-off — which will feature a mixture of amateur and professional chefs competing for prizes — will begin at 11 a.m., with an opening ceremony held at 12 p.m. Mel Busler of WWNY-TV 7News/Fox28 will again serve as master of ceremonies. Attendees will be able to sample chili from each of the teams competing in the event 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 cast their ballots until 2:30 p.m. 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’re excited to again have a lot of great professional and amateur chefs lined up who will have a lot of creative recipes to share,” said Jeremiah S. Papineau, Director of Communications and Foundation Director for the VTC. “This is a great, family-friendly event that really brings people out in the middle of what can be a very long winter.”

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, which ends this Wednesday, Feb. 21. 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 in 2021 and 2023 and, beginning last year, was paired with the in-person event’s return. This year, more than 30 locations have participated. Restaurants that have participated included:

Spookhill Bar & Grill, 12139 U.S. Route 11, Adams Center
The Dockside Pub, 11 Market Street, Alexandria Bay
JRECK Subs, 210 State Street, Carthage
The Church Street Diner, 107 Church Street, Carthage
Highmarket Inn, 4441 Highmarket Road, Constableville
The Cottage Inn, 9794 State Route 12, Copenhagen
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
JRECK Subs, 7596 South State Street, Lowville
Lloyd’s of Lowville, 7405 Utica Boulevard, Lowville
munch., 7570 South State Street, Lowville
Ella’s On The Bay, 209 Main Street, Morristown
Smuggler’s Café, 54 East River Street, Ogdensburg
Hoof & Horn Butcher and Eatery, 32 Market Street, Potsdam
Saint Larry’s Bar and Grill, 6 Elm Street, Potsdam
Nu Pier Restaurant, 13212 State Route 3, Sackets Harbor
The Battlefield Eatery, 213 West Main Street, Sackets Harbor
The Sandwich Bar, 113 West Main Street, Sackets Harbor
Tavern230, 4173 West Road, Turin
Empire Square, 65 Public Square, Watertown
Johnny D’s, 1 Public Square, Watertown
JRECK Subs, 1201 Arsenal Street, Watertown
JRECK Subs, 605 State Street, Watertown
JRECK Subs, 525 Mill Street, Watertown
Panera Bread, 21872 Towne Center Drive, Watertown
Pete’s Trattoria, 111 Breen Avenue, Watertown
The Grille at Hilton Garden Inn, 1290 Arsenal Street, Watertown
Hall Pass Tavern, 19 Bridge Street, West Carthage
Jose O’Connor’s, 15 Bridge Street, West Carthage

Those who have wanted to cast votes for their favorite entries in the remote format have been able to do so in person by paper ballot or online through the VTC website. In addition, participating locations have again been 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 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 25th Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off is supported by “Underwriting Level Sponsors” Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Watertown Savings Bank, Stewart’s Shops, United Food Service Operators, Tim Wewer Tax and Accounting Services, WWNY-TV 7News/Fox28/MeTV, Tunes 92.5/Intrepid Broadcasting, PixelIt, NNY360/Watertown Daily Times, Victory Promotions, Advanced Business Systems, and The American Legion Family.

Platinum Level Sponsors include Benefit Services Group/OneDigital, Credo Foundation, Kinney Drugs Foundation, Price Chopper, Purcell Construction Corporation, Samaritan Medical Center, The ARC of Jefferson-St. Lawrence and Watertown Internists.

Gold Level Sponsors include American Legion Post 162 Auxiliary, AmeriCU Credit Union, Bob Johnson Auto Group, Disabled Persons Action Organization, Keller Williams-Amy Kenney, Knowlton Technologies, NFP Corp., North Country Insurance Company, Northern Credit Union, Northern New York Community Foundation, SeaComm Federal Credit Union, State CS Employee Federal Credit Union, Watertown International Airport.

Silver Level Sponsors include American Legion Post 1788; American Legion Post 588 Sons of the American Legion; American Legion Post 789 Auxiliary; American Legion Post 821 Auxiliary; American Legion Post 832; American Legion Post 904 Sons of the American Legion; Brotherton Trucking; Carthage Savings & Loan; Cazenovia Equipment Company; Chimera Integrations; Clayton Lions Club; Community Bank, N.A.; DOCO Quick Print/Midgley Printing; Fuller Insurance Agency; GEICO Insurance; GYMO Architecture Engineering & Land Surveying; Haylor, Freyer, & Coon; Hilton Garden Inn; Hospice of Jefferson County; RBC Wealth Management; Slack Chemical Company; and Steve Shannon.

Friends of the Cook-Off Level sponsors include American Legion Post 162 Sons of the American Legion, American Legion Post 1757 Sons of the Ameri-can Legion, American Legion Post 586 Auxiliary, American Legion Post 586 Sons of the American Legion, American Legion Post 588 Auxiliary, American Legion Post 832 Auxiliary, AMVETS Post 282, Atlantic Testing Laboratories, Children’s Home of Jefferson County (CHJC), CNY Office Furniture, DGM Coon & Company, Jake Johnson Properties, Johnson Lumber LLC, Lowville Elks Lodge 1605, Meade Optical, North Country German American Club, Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists, The Dockside Pub, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6338, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6338 Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7227 Auxiliary, and Watertown Elks Lodge 496.

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 25th 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 2023, volunteer drivers provided 25,314 charitable trips over 855,471 miles in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties. Of those miles, 329,819 helped those in Jefferson County, 101,766 in Lewis County, and 423,886 in St. Lawrence County. That equated to approximately $427,736 in mileage reimbursement for our volunteers. That’s why the community’s help is so important.

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