The annual downtown chili blast returns for its fifth year on Saturday morning, along with nine chili teams sponsored by local businesses, spanning a nine-block radius across East Main and East First streets.
As Chili Blast committee member D’Lacey Haight of Ace Hardware explains, the event originally began as a chili tasting competition.
“The Merrill Area Chamber organized the first event inside the vacant building which used to be The Guys Shop. We had several chili cooks and sold tickets for people who wanted to go in and sample the chili.
“It was a great event and a lot of fun. Downtown business owners got together later and discussed the idea of making the event into a walking tour of the downtown area. The following year we organized the first chili tasting walking tour and it turned out great. This will be our fourth year of the tour and we are very excited. We have been blessed with a great turnout and great weather every year since,” she adds. ”The event is a great opportunity to showcase our downtown area and downtown businesses. Aside from visitors having the opportunity to enjoy a variety of yummy chili, they also get the Merrill downtown experience and everything the downtown area has to offer.”
Saturday’s festivities kick off at 10 a.m. as each of the nine chili teams will have a five-gallon batch of their unique recipe for visitor enjoyment.
Visitors may partake in the sampling upon purchasing a $5 journey card along with a complimentary spoon. Visitors are encouraged to take notes on the various chili stations on their journey cards and when the event draws to a close at 2 p.m., cash prizes of $100, $75 and $50 will be given away to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.
Along with an opportunity to tour downtown and enjoying the tastes and aromas of various chili blends, Andy Anderson will be on-hand selling pumpkins and pumpkin painting will also be available.
Live music will be provided by Andy Ament and Paul Waid.
“This really is a unique and fun event,” Haight adds. “I encourage community members to come down on Saturday and see what we have to offer. If you think all chili is spicy that’s even more reason to come down as we will have a wide range of recipes to offer. Everyone will get about a ¼ cup of chili at each station, so you will be plenty full when you leave!”