September 1, 2021 | Written by Kingsli Kraft
The Alpena Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has made the difficult decision to postpone the Chili Chowder Cook-Off for 2021.
Usually, the event takes place on the first Saturday in October and chefs from local restaurants as well as home cooks enter their best chilis and chowders to compete for a variety of awards, Best in Show, Best Chili, Best Chowder, Most Festive, and more. Official judges and those attending the event are invited to taste the entries and score their favorites.
The event is also usually zero waste, utilizing muffin tins as tasting trays and metal spoons. DDA Staff and volunteers then usually spend hours washing the over three hundred muffin tins and even more spoons in the kitchen at one of the downtown churches.
Last year, the event was cancelled due to COVID-19. This year, due to staffing changes at the DDA, staffing difficulties at local restaurants, and a rise in COVID-19 cases, the Alpena DDA’s Marketing and Promotions Committee made the decision to postpone the event this year.
The Chili Chowder Cook-off started as a way to bring more people downtown in the fall, after summer was over. It started before events like Sunrise Suds Tap Takeover and Thunder Bay Winery’s Harvest Festival. It’s great because now we have those events which are amazing draws for both locals and visitors to come downtown in the fall.
Because of that, our committee has had the chance to re-evaluate if autumn is the best time of year to have the Chili Chowder Cook-Off, or if we should try to host it another time of year. In the past, our committee has talked about moving the Chili Chowder Cook-Off indoors throughout downtown establishments and shifting it to the late winter, closer to the Superbowl to spread out events that draw people downtown more. Many downtown merchants and stakeholders have given feedback that hosting some kind of event downtown in February or March would be wonderful.
This year, because I’m leaving my role at the DDA (my last day is next Wednesday, September 8th) and so many of our restaurants and usual competitors are struggling with staffing, the Marketing & Promotions Committee decided it would be a great time to try something new and push the event back and test it out in early 2022 so they can focus on preparing for the holidays and the DDA can focus on the job search and hiring process in September and October to fill the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator role. (You can read the full press release about staff changes at the DDA on our website.)
An official announcement about Chili Chowder Cook-Off being rescheduled will be shared likely after the holiday season in Downtown Alpena in early 2022. You can find information about all DDA-hosted or partnered events on our website at www.downtownalpenami.com/events.
Kingsli Kraft wrote this article for Blog Downtown Alpena. Kingsli is an Alpena native and a graduate of the University of Michigan. She now works at the Alpena Downtown Development Authority as the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator. She volunteers on Thunder Bay Theatre’s Board of Directors and is a dedicated advocate for the arts and environment. She enjoys reading, writing, yoga, hiking, caring for her numerous house plants and all things coffee. You can follow her on Instagram here.