0127 ACC Chili Cook-Off

A table of folks at the Morganton Community House enjoy a meal at last year's ACC Chili Cook-Off.

One of Morganton’s favorite downtown events is turning 25.

The ACC Chili Cook-Off returns to celebrate its silver anniversary this spring at the Morganton Community House from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. True to its name, the event will coincide with the third day of the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament, the quarterfinal round.

“I think when an event can last as long as the chili cook-off has lasted — 25 years — that’s a really long time for an event,” said Abby Nelson, events coordinator for the Morganton Main Street Department, which hosts the event. “Its success comes from the people who support it and come and enjoy a bowl of chili and ACC basketball during their time at the community house.”

Nelson counts the cook-off among her favorite downtown events because of the warm and cozy indoor setting that eliminates worries about a rainout — and, of course, some tasty chili.

“I love it. It’s a wonderful time for the community to come together and share food and enjoy each other’s company,” she said. “I’m excited about it. It’s always a fun time.”

Those who buy a ticket will be treated to all-you-can-eat chili with cheese and hot sauce available, along with sides including cornbread, salad, a drink and dessert.

As always, the cook-off will be divided into two categories for competition — commercial and amateur. The commercial category is open to restaurants — usually about 15 or 20 of them — from across the area competing for the “Best Chili in Town” award while anyone can bring in a crockpot of their signature chili recipe to challenge the amateur division field.

“If you have a friend or a neighbor or you yourself have a great recipe you think is a winner, all you have to do is bring a crockpot full of chili to the community house that morning, drop it off and it will be judged,” Nelson said.

Entry forms for both the amateur (bit.ly/2Uczwf2) and commercial (bit.ly/2B6NHvd) entry forms are available online for download.

Amateur category entry forms can be faxed or dropped off at the Main Street office. The entry fee for amateurs is $10. Those who participate must drop off their chili between 8-9 a.m. on the morning of the cook-off. Prizes include ribbons and downtown bucks awards totaling $250 given for first, second and third. There is no firm entry deadline for the amateur division, but it is preferred for entries to be delivered a few days in advance.

Commercial entries should deliver four gallons of chili between 7:30-9 a.m. the morning of the event. Entry forms must be received by March 8 to compete. Returning commercial competitors are expected to include Pat’s Snack Bar, the Morganton Community House, Abele’s Family Restaurant and Judge’s Riverside BBQ, among others in and around downtown.

Nelson extended a special thank-you to event supporters, including presenting sponsor Farm Bureau Insurance, along with Small and Martin Orthodontics, ERA Mountain View Properties, Food Lion, Pepsi, KICKS 103.3 FM Radio, CoMPAS X-Stream and Simply Green Recycling.

“All of these people come and help us by supporting this event,” she said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

Online ticket sales already have begun while physical tickets will be available for purchase to start the month of February this Friday at the Morganton Main Street Office, located at 112B W. Union St., or from Downtown Development Association board members. Tickets cost $7, with a $1 processing fee for online sales.

For more information, call the Main Street office at 828-438-5252.

Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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