Sykesville's chili and beer festival a true test for taste buds

Before plunging into a sample of chili at the second annual Historic Sykesville Main Street's Chili Cook-off and Beer Festival Sunday afternoon, there are several things to consider, according to Ivy Wells, Historic Main Street economic director.

"Taste the chili, don't just chew it and swallow," Wells said. "Savor it for a while to see how the spices blend. Look at the construction of it. Is there an aftertaste?"

Wells, who trained to be a judge for the International Chili Society, will share her chili knowledge with the residents and business owners on the panel to select the winner of Main Street's Chili Cook-off.

With 17 varieties of chili offered — vegetarian, white and green chilies, traditional beef and beans — competition is heated.

Restaurants, including Captain Dan's Crabhouse, Oscar's Alehouse, G.L. Shacks, Baldwin's Station Restaurant and E.W. Beck's will be competing in the cook-off as well as several local residents, Wells said.

"We will have three or four different types," said Dan Feehan, general manager of Beck's, of its chili entries. "It's a secret. They'll be good, we'll tell you that."

For the first cook-off last year, there were only seven chili entries and two beer offerings, Wells said.

Before the afternoon was over, the chili was long gone.

"It was a huge hit," Wells said of the day. "We ran out of chili before it ended. I would say there was about 1,000 people."

This year, the beer festival will feature 17 brews, according to Wells, who worked with E.W. Beck's to bring in more breweries.

"We are assisting and helping with it," Feehan said, of the festival. "Last year, we just participated in it."

For a $30 beer tasting fee, participants will be able to sample 12 beers in a commemorative 4-ounce Sykesville Main Street glass.

"It looks like a little mini-mug," Wells said of the tasting cup. "It is a little bigger than a shot glass."

The chili cook-off and beer festival is the biggest fundraiser for the Sykesville Main Street Association, a part of the Maryland Main Street Program. The association works to strengthen Sykesville's Main Street to make it attractive to both businesses and residents.

"Right now, there are zero vacant store fronts," Wells said with pride. "There's a lot happening."

In addition to chili and beer, the event will feature live music and 22 vendors.

All streets in town will remain open as the event will take place in the parking lot behind E.W. Beck's, 7565 Main St.

While many local communities hold chili cook-offs later in the year, Wells said the association thought that timing the event to coincide with the start of the college and pro football seasons was perfect.

"It is the kick-off of football season," Wells said. "Everybody likes to have beer and chili during the games."

They did check football schedules first however.

"We made sure the Ravens — and the Redskins, for that matter — didn't have games," Feehan said.

The Historic Sykesville Main Street Chili Cook-Off and Beer Festival takes place noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 8.

There is a $5 chili tasting fee.

More fun for the family

Taneytown Family Fun Days will take place Sept. 12 to 15 all around town, offering everything from hot air balloon rides and a petting zoo, to carnival rides, crafts, a car show and more.

On Friday, Sept. 13, and Saturday, Sept. 14, an Oktoberfest will be hosted by Gunner's Grille at Taneytown, 5525 Taneytown Pike.

The Oktoberfest will feature three Oktoberfest beers as well as German food, including kielbasa and sauerkraut sandwiches, according to Brooke Hagerty, owner of Gunner's Grille.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Hagerty said. "We are happy to be taking part in it. Everybody should come and enjoy beautiful downtown Taneytown."

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