North Country Chili Cook-Off Returning With Hybrid Format

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 this week with a hybrid format that will include bringing back its in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building.

“We are excited for the cook-off’s return in this format that pairs what we’ve done over the past two years with our local restaurants and our traditional in-person event,” said Jeremiah S. Papineau, Director of Communications and Foundation Director for the VTC. “We really feel it will be 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. This year, more than 25 locations are participating once again in an abbreviated format from Wednesday, Feb. 1, and will run through Wednesday, Feb. 22, leading up to the in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building on Saturday, Feb. 25.

“When we were trying to determine how we would handle the return of the in-person event, we knew we didn’t want to do away with our pub crawl format,” said Mr. Papineau. “It’s been something these local restaurants and businesses have seen help bring even more people to their establishments.

L.E.A’S Diner in Heuvelton received the most votes in the North Country Chili Cook-Off, winning the People’s Choice Award for the second year in a row last year. Seen here are owners Steven and Tasha Bogardus with Jeremiah S. Papineau, Foundation Director and Director of Communications for the Volunteer Transportation Center.
Meme’s Diner in Felts collected the most donations for the second year in a row for the North Country Chili Cook-Off last year, winning the Top Fundraiser Award. Seen here is owner Brandy Snyder with Jeremiah S. Papineau, Foundation Director and Director of Communications for the Volunteer Transportation Center.

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:

Beese’s Depot Café, 13449 Depot Street, Adams Center
Adams Country Club, 10700 U.S. Route 11, Adams
The Dockside Pub, 17 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
Smuggler’s Café/Hosmer’s Marina, 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 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. 25.

“We are looking forward to the return of our in-person portion of this event, featuring amateur and professional chefs competing for top bragging rights,” said Mr. Papineau.

The in-person competition on Feb. 25 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.

The Volunteer Transportation Center will mark the return of its Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off in February. The event will be held in a hybrid format, with its “pub crawl” format at participating restaurants Wednesday, Feb. 1, through Wednesday, Feb. 22, and the return of its in-person event at the Dulles State Office Building on Saturday, Feb. 25. Pictured here is the team from Garland City Beer Works, Watertown, which took first place in the professional category at the in-person event in 2020.

“We’re really looking forward to being back at the Dulles State Office Building,” said VTC Executive Director Sam Purington. “This event is always such a great, family-friendly one all for a very good cause.”

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, along with many other generous sponsors.

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