Who makes the best chili in the area? If you think it could be you, then grab your secret recipe and your biggest pot because Sykesville Main Street will hold a Chili Cook-off and Beer Festival on Saturday, Sept. 8, from noon to 5 p.m.

Entry costs $10 per recipe, and judges will award $100 to the winner in each of three different chili categories — meat, vegetarian and green. They will also award $100 to the people's choice favorite.

Of course, plenty of folks need to vote for the people's choice award, so if eating is more your forte than cooking, come on out to nosh. For a $5 tasting fee, you can sample every chili.

The event will also feature Maryland microbrews, food vendors, crafters, children's activities and live music. Acoustic artist Stephen Heller will open for Rob Fahey of the Ravyns, the Baltimore group best known for its 1982 hit, "Raised on the Radio."


Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

Visitors should park at South Branch Park, on the Howard County side of the river, and then walk down Main Street to the Baldwin's Station parking lot, where the festival will take place.

Contestants may arrive at 7 a.m. to begin cooking and should prepare at least four quarts of chili from scratch (no chili mixes) out in open view.

Any meat used must begin raw and cannot be marinated. The health department also forbids the use of "home kill" products (e.g., deer, rabbit), so all meats must be purchased from a local retail store or meat market.

Propane gas is strongly encouraged since electricity is limited, but power will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for an additional $10.

Contestants must also provide a list of their ingredients to the judges, who will begin sampling the chili at noon. They will critique the dishes in five areas — aroma, color, consistency, taste and bite/heat.

The public may also begin sampling at noon, and the people's choice prize will be awarded at 4 p.m.

To learn more or to print the contestant registration materials, go to http://www.sykesville.net/chili. Make sure to allow ample time to mail the requisite forms to the health department, which requires original signatures (no faxed copies).

Good luck, and good cooking!

Every year, the Howard County Master Gardeners showcase a local home that helps preserve the Chesapeake Bay through good gardening practices. This year's location is in Columbia, at 7661 Sweet Hours Way.

The homeowner has not only reduced the size of her lawn, but has also located her flower gardens to collect storm water runoff and has used a variety of native plants and trees. Visitors are invited to tour the property on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 1 to 4 p.m.

To see photos of the site, go to mastergardener.umd.edu/local/howard/index.cfm and select the 2012 Garden Tour link. Email jacobymelissa@hotmail.com or call 301-490-4469 for more details.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church is back in action Aug. 23 with its monthly community feast. The meal will run from 6 to 8 p.m. and will feature a Cajun-inspired menu of gumbo, rice, salad, garlic bread, marinated vegetables and irresistible homemade desserts, all generously donated by Smokin' Hot Bar & Grille.

Dine in or carry out for the same cost, $9 per person or $30 maximum per family, and kids 5 and younger eat for free. This month's proceeds will help purchase instruments and equipment for a new praise band that will perform at the 9 a.m. service once a month, beginning in October.

St. Andrew's is between Union Chapel Road and the Glenwood Post Office, at 2892 Route 97. Just look for the sign marked by balloons.

Questions? Contact Lynne Quinn at lynnequinn@comcast.net or 410-442-5445.

September has nearly arrived, thus bringing a second season of yard sales.

The youth group at Mount Zion United Methodist Church will hold its traditional yard sale fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The address is 12430 Scaggsville Road, in Highland.

If you would like to reserve space to sell your treasures, contact youth leader Elizabeth Blough at Eblough@comcast.net or 301-604-6769. The cost is $20 for two 9- by 17-foot spaces and $5 for each additional space.

Don't forget that the deadline is fast approaching for the Howard County Volunteer of the Year nominations. If you know of a Howard County-based group or individual that has provided exemplary volunteer service and deserves recognition, go to http://www.howardcountymd.gov/voy.htm for the appropriate nomination forms, and make sure to complete and return them by Friday, Sept. 7.

Nominations can be submitted online, via email at voy@howardcountymd.gov, faxed to 410-313-3390, or mailed to Howard County Volunteer of the Year, Attn: Alexandra Bresani, Office of Public Information, 3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043. Call 410-313-2022 with any questions, or email the address listed above.