Chili Cook-Off to Mark 25th Anniversary

Tri-County Competition for Restaurants and In-Person Event Return

(WATERTOWN, NY) – The Volunteer Transportation Center will mark the 25th anniversary of its Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off this week with a hybrid format that again promotes participation among local restaurants and its in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building.

“We’re excited to once again pair the restaurant-to-restaurant format for the cook-off with our big in-person event the community has come to know and love,” said Jeremiah S. Papineau, Director of Communications and Foundation Director for the VTC. “We merged the formats last year and it went very well.”

The North Country Chili Cook-Off had historically been a one-day event at the Dulles State Office Building, held on the first Saturday in February. However, the event was held in a modified format in 2021 and 2022 during 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. This year, more than 30 locations are participating once again in an abbreviated format from Thursday, Feb. 1, through Wednesday, Feb. 21, leading up to the in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building on Saturday, Feb. 24.

“We’re overwhelmed by the participation from our local restaurants,” said Mr. Papineau. “We’ve continued to see it grow and grow and it’s gratifying to see how enthusiasm has grown for it, too. We love being able to shine a spotlight on local business.”

The cook-off’s pub crawl format will again involve 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 following restaurants have signed up to compete:

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
Garland City Beer Works, 321 Howk Street, 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 wanting to cast votes will be able to do so in person by paper ballot or online through the VTC website beginning Feb. 1. 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 Feb. 24.

“We’re once again looking forward to the return of our in-person portion of this event, which features amateur and professional chefs competing for top bragging rights,” said Mr. Papineau. “We’ve got even more participants than last year, which extremely encouraging, especially as we mark our 25th year.”

The in-person competition on Feb. 24 begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m. when awards will be presented. Each entry at the in-person event will be scored by a panel of local judges, with winners taking home plaques and cash prizes. Attendees will be able to sample chili from each participant. 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 looking forward to being back once again at the Dulles State Office Building,” said VTC Executive Director Sam Purington. “It was great to bring this family-friendly event back in-person last year, especially since it’s for a great cause.”

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 AmeriCU Credit Union, Colello Air Technologies, 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 Bob Johnson Auto Group, Disabled Persons Action Organization, Keller Williams-Amy Kenney, Knowlton Technologies, NFP Corp., North Country Insurance Company, Northern New York Community Foundation, SeaComm Federal Credit Union, State CS Employee Federal Credit Union, and 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 SAL; Brotherton Trucking; Carthage Savings & Loan; Cazenovia Equipment Company; Cheney Tire; Chimera Integrations; DOCO Quick Print/Midgley Printing; Fuller Insurance Agency; GEICO Insurance-Mark Smith; GYMO Architecture Engineering & Land Surveying; Haylor, Freyer, & Coon; Hilton Garden Inn; and RBC Wealth Management.

Friends of the Cook-Off Level sponsors include American Legion Post 162, American Legion Post 162 Sons of the American Legion, American Legion Post 1757 Sons of the American Legion, American Legion Post 586 Sons of the American Legion, American Legion Post 832 Auxiliary, AMVETS Post 282, Atlantic Testing Laboratories, CNY Office Furniture, DGM Coon & Company, Hospice of Jefferson County, Jake Johnson Properties, Johnson Lumber LLC, Lowville Elks Lodge 1605, Meade Optical, Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists, The Dockside Pub, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6338, 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 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