MIDDLEBURY - Downtown merchants in Middlebury spent all of last week gearing up for the town's second Annual Middlebury Winter Carnival and Chili Contest held March 12.
This year's festival date was changed to early March after 2010's debut event was held in late February. The crowd in 2011 was bigger than last year because the public was invited to share the fun and enjoy lots of good food.
The downtown event included many added bonuses - free public skating, snowshoe races, an open house at the Middlebury Fire Station, dog sled demonstrations, a big bonfire, and a winter ball that was open to folks of all ages.
Headlining the event was a regional chili contest, taking place on the sidewalks of Main Street and Merchants Row.
Other Vermont towns, such as Rutland and Poultney, have discovered that chili festivals lure lots of people to their downtown areas, so now Middlebury has adopted the successful formula.
The downtown Middlebury festival idea was the creation of the owners of Two Brothers Tavern. Downtown Middlebury Partnership officials said dozens of area restaurants and several county fire departments were on-hand to show off their chili skills. Amateurs were welcome and encouraged to enter this year's chili-cooking contest.
Professionals and amateurs alike were judged separately by the public in eight categories including Best Beef Chili, Best Veggie Chili, Hottest Chili and Best Presentation.
All winners will be announced in next week's Eagle.