In downtown Sykesville on Saturday, the small town will once again be inundated by visitors hoping to get a taste of the historic atmosphere — and some chili and beer along with it.
The town's third annual Chili Cook-off and Beer Festival will run from noon to 5 p.m. Visitors will have a chance to taste some of the 17 entries in the chili cook-off. There are two categories this year, one for red and another for white chili, said Ivy Wells, manager of the Main Street program and economic development director. Initially there were three categories planned, but she only received one entry for the vegetarian category. Along with the two categories, there will once again be a People's Choice Award for the crowd favorite.
Several restaurants from the area have entered the cook-off as well, including Oscars Alehouse, G.L. Shacks Grill, Glory Days Grill, Captain Dan's Crabhouse, Baldwin's Station and E.W. Beck's Pub.
To help wash the chili down, the festival will have about 30 types of beer from 15 breweries, including many local crafters such as Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, The Brewer's Art, DuClaw Brewing Co., Tall Tales, Jailbreak, Union and Full Tilt.
Visitors will also be entertained by 30 arts-and-craft vendors, Wells said. Several artists will demonstrate their skills, jewelry will be for sale and a custom cornhole board maker will be displaying and selling sets.
Wells said she is hoping to raise $5,000 from ticket sales and vendor registration fees. All money raised will be used for prize money, purchasing merchandise for advertising purposes and for funding future festivals and other town revitalization efforts, she said.
Because the festival is still in its infancy, Wells said, she knew that changes to the event's format were inevitable.
Perhaps the most significant change is to the prize money for each category winner. Last year, each winner was awarded $100, but this year the prize money has been raised to $250. Due to the absence of a vegetarian category and last year's success, Wells said, she wanted to raise the prize to hopefully draw an even larger crowd.
Last year, organizers ran into the issue of running out of chili, said Adam Newcomer, the winner of the 2013 People's Choice Award. The Sykesville resident said he was told to bring 24 quarts of chili this Saturday, twice what contestants were asked to supply last year.
Wells said she decided to include other food this year besides chili. The Knights of Columbus will be running a pit beef and turkey stand that will also serve other fair-type food, including hot dogs and hamburgers.
Another change is in the form of sponsorship. Previously businesses that wanted to participate were allowed to purchase a vendor spot at the festival. After speaking with several visitors to the cook-off about the event, Wells decided to do away with this form of advertising. While visitors said they enjoyed the crafters, entertainment, food and drink, most people didn't respond well to being bombarded by businesses.
Wells said any business that wanted to sponsor the event could do so monetarily rather than by purchasing a vendor spot. Benefits of sponsorship include advertising via social media, banners at the event and logo representation on merchandise, and on Sykesville Main Street's website.
The event has two sponsors: Long Fence and Home, a home remodeling company based in Beltsville; and Assist 2 Sell, a full-service real-estate company representing buyers and sellers.
Leo Keenan, owner of an Eldersburg Assist 2 Sell office and councilman on the Sykesville Town Council, said sponsoring such a popular event is a great way to give back to the community and promote his business at the same time.
Keenan also helps organize some events on Main Street and said the positive response from the surrounding communities certainly surprised the group, made clear with so many vendors running out of chili. At other events, particularly the Sykesville Wine Festival in May, organizers were similarly unprepared, running out of souvenir wine glasses in two hours while the festival ran for four.