LAKEGEORGE-Lake George Arts Project Executive Director John Strong is no stranger to challenges, having presided over many events and concerts over three decades.
Sunday's Bands and Beans festival, the 30th annual for the Arts Project, however, provided a triple whammy of potential problems.
Late last week, 30 restaurants and 13 individuals were readying their recipes for the event which annually draws about 1,000 people - the most popular event of its type in the Adirondacks.
Two days before the event, however, the state Health Department notified Strong it would not allow chili concoctions prepared in people's homes to be consumed at the event - although the Arts Project has hosted Bands 'N Beans for 20 years with no health-related problems.
Then Sunday, the weather conditions shifted, and a forecast of rain or a little snow turned into a full-blown blizzard.
Driving snow threatened to diminish the attendance, as high winds nearly swept away the tent structures at the entrance of the event's venue, Roaring Brook Ranch.
The hardy folks, however, turned out for the this traditional annual orgy of music, dancing and chili.
While it wasn't quite wall-to-wall people like in other recent years, it was still a robust, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at the event which featured a dozen bands playing on two stages.
One person after another Sunday said they fully enjoyed the annual rite of spring that's now a treasured social tradition in the North Country.
As a crowd gyrated on the dance floor, Strong glanced over expansive Roaring Brook banquet hall, where partyers were milling shoulder-to-shoulder around Roaring Brook's bar.
"There's a lot of underlying energy here," he said. "It's creative food, creative music, and we love doing it," he said.
Strong said that the 30 restaurants prepared enough chili - 20 to 30 gallons each - to satisfy the crowd, despite the individual entries being banned by the state.
Watching dozens dance, Julie Manchester of Pine City NY said that the wide selection of gourmet chili wasn't the reason why she attended.
"There's fabulous company here, great music and cold beer," she said, standing near the dance floor, outfitted in a snowmobile suit. "I haven't had any chili, and I'm having a ball."
She added that she'd heard for years about Bands 'N Beans, but this was her first time to show up.
"This is a hell of a party here - I never thought it would be so big," she added.
Mike Lawler of Warrensburg said that Bands 'N Beans was a way to re-connect with people.
"I'm running into a lot of people I haven't seen for years, besides the people I see all the time," he said.
Nearby, Chef Andy VanBourgodein of Upriver Cafe spooned out his Chipotle Ale Pork & Beef Chili, topped with a dollop with Cilantro-Lime Creme-Fraiche, and served it up with a square of Spanish onion focaccia bread.
"This is quite a party," said VanBourgodein, who's restaurant is located in the former Poppa's Ice Cream Parlor, beside the scenic Hudson River.
At an adjacent table, Raul Mejia, chef at Pablo's Burrito Cantina in Lake George, served up his traditional concoction. He said his chili was based on his grandmother's recipe, recalling the weekends he spent with her many years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Serving up a non-traditional variety - a blonde chicken chili with fresh jalapenos - were Mary Benton, Domaine Carter and Mark Anthony of Gore Mountain Resort.
"This is a great time," Benton said."I love cooking and the atmosphere is great."
Nearby were Don Meyer of Melba Mae's Riverview Inn, a roadhouse tucked away in Hadley.
Meyer and his wife Linda accepted an award for third place, while they sparred over which one of them was really responsible for the recipe. For 18 years, Melba Mae's chili has ranked in the top three at Bands 'N Beans, Don Meyer said.
"The Sagamore beats me sometimes, but it takes five guys in starched white uniforms to do it," he said. "Everybody gets exotic, but I stick to beef and beans."
Bryan Rounds of Warrensburg leaned up against a wall and philosophized on Bands 'N Beans 20 years of success.
"People from all walks of life are here, and it's a real cool event," he said, noting that people-watching was a prime activity. "Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd."