Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sharon Cunningham says the event was modeled after the soup and wine stroll that takes place the day before the Vermont Wine & Harvest Festival each fall. “It seems to work out really well having the stroll on Friday night in Wilmington and then the festival the following day at Mount Snow,” says Cunningham. “It kind of ties it all together.”
A late March snowstorm that’s possibly headed to the valley on Friday isn’t dampening any spirits. “What goes better with snow than chili?” says Cunningham. “The weather is cooperating — it’s going to make people really happy they’re eating chili!”
Cunningham says that although there have been chili contests in the valley in the past, this will be the first year for this particular stroll, which will pair chili with craft brews. In an effort to keep the event manageable and fun for all, ticket sales will be capped at 400, and the area covered by the stroll will be compact, with chili and beer tastings happening along West Main Street only. Most of the tastings will be inside businesses, with the exception of chili made by the Anchor, which will be served on the front porch of Chapman’s Antiques.
Restaurants participating in the chili contest include the Wilmington Inn, Jezabel’s, Valley View Saloon, the Village Roost, the Wilmington Village Pub, Cask & Kiln Kitchen, Dot’s of Wilmington, the Anchor, the Hermitage Club, and OMT/Dover Forge. There will be at least one vegetarian option on the stroll, though many restaurants have said they intend to cook up a classic “Texas style” chili, which contains meat. Attendees of the stroll will have a chance to vote for their favorite chili. The winning restaurant will receive a $200 cash prize for being named the people’s choice.
Beer tastings will include pours from a range of breweries including Alchemist, Rock Art, Stowe, Trout River, Otter Creek, Switchback, Lost Nation, Brewmaster, Burlington Beer, and Upper Pass. Rather than giving attendees a specific number of tastes with the price of admission, passport holders will have the opportunity to try an ounce of every beer on the stroll, which will add up to about a pint of beer in the end.
Each ticket to the stroll includes one entry into the stroll’s raffle. Additional entries may be purchased for $5 each or $20 for five. Those who enter the raffle will have a chance to win world-class beers including famed Heady Topper from Alchemist in Waterbury; beers from Foam Brewers in Burlington, which was named one of the top 10 new brewers in 2016 by Rate Beer; and beers from Tree House Brewing, which has three beers that made it to the top 30 of Beer Advocates’ annual Top 250 list.
Tickets to the stroll and to the raffle will be sold starting at 4 pm at the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce office in Wilmington. Tastings begin at 5 pm and go until 7 pm. The raffle drawing will take place at 8 pm at the Wilmington Inn. The winner of the chili contest will also be named at the raffle drawing.