The congregants of St. James United Methodist Church recently welcomed a new pastor, Katie Saari, who graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary in 2012. Saari hails from Bloomington, Ind., but is excited to be part of this community and eagerly anticipates meeting her new neighbors.

Come hear Rev. Saari at the newly scheduled worship time of 9 a.m. on Sundays. Summer services will alternate between the outdoor Chapel in the Woods on July 28, Aug. 11 and 25 and the indoor sanctuary Aug. 4 and 18. The church address is 12470 Old Frederick Road (Route 99) in Marriottsville.

For more information, go to http://www.saintjamesweb.org or call the church office at 410-442-2020.

Although temperatures may feel a little warm yet for eating chili, Sykesville Main Street is now accepting entry forms for the Sykesville Chili Cook-off and Beer Festival on Sunday, Sept. 8, 1-4 p.m., at the E.W. Becks parking lot. Time to get cracking on your super-secret, prize-winning recipe!

The entry fee is $10, and contestants may choose one of three chili categories — beef, green or vegetarian. In order to comply with health department regulations, participants must provide a list of ingredients in advance and prepare all chili from scratch (no mixes), out in the open. The beef and green categories must begin with raw meat purchased from a local retail store or meat market; no home kill meat (e.g., deer, rabbit) will be permitted.

Contestants may arrive as early as 7 a.m. and should plan to cook with propane. However, electricity will be available on a limited, first-come, first-served basis for an additional $10 fee. Contestants should make sure to decorate their areas for visual appeal.

Judges will begin tasting the entries at noon and will look at five basic criteria — aroma, color, consistency, taste, and bite (heat). They will award a $100 prize for the top chili in each category. Additionally, the public will be allowed to taste the entries and vote for the "People's Choice" chili, which will also receive $100.

To register, go to http://www.sykesvillemainstreet.com/vendor-information and submit your application by Friday, Aug. 23.

The Howard County Conservancy is aiming to pull together the biggest and best picnic in the Maryland "Buy Local Challenge" (www.buy-local-challenge.com/contest.html). You can participate by preparing your own picnic meal using local foods and heading to the Conservancy at 10520 Old Frederick Road (Route 99), Woodstock, on the last day of the challenge, Sunday, July 28, 2-5 p.m.

The Conservancy will award two prizes — one for the best picnic spread (meal and/or snacks) and one for the best dessert. Picnickers do not need to have registered for the statewide contest in order to attend.

To learn more, go to http://www.hcconservancy.org.