Asia Luna at the Hudson Chili Cookoff October 9

Henry Hudson Riverfront Park on the banks of the river in Hudson October 9 between 12 noon and 4!

There’s something about chili and Fall that go together. Is it the idea of hot, stick-to-your-ribs food on a cool day? Or maybe it’s the tang of some extra fire, the addition of a couple habaneras, or a few shakes of that Tabasco that perfectly epitomizes the season. Hot food that’s hot. What could be better when the temperature starts to plunge?

Cool weather will be the perfect accompaniment to this year’s Chili Contest, scheduled for October 9 between 12 noon and 4. Held in a tent at the Henry Hudson Riverfront Park on the banks of the river in Hudson, admission is only $5.00 with children aged 5 and under free. The date, Saturday of Columbus Day weekend, is specifically chosen to coincide with ArtsWalk, the Columbia County Council on the Arts biggest event of the year. It brings thousands of people to the town of Hudson (and this year, expanding into nearby Chatham), eager to look at, and buy, the works of local artists.

“Whatever they’re doing, they have to eat,” says co-chair Nancy Ginsberg of Ginsberg’s Foods. “And our contest is in a perfect time slot.” It doesn’t hurt that it’s on the banks of the Hudson, either. Patrons need only gaze up at the Catskill peaks to see images studiously documented by Hudson River School painters Frederic Church and Thomas Cole.

But, back to the chili. It’s a contest with big prize money and a wide assortment of tastes. Promoters are eager for alternative chilies – not just the tomato and bean variety. “We want cooks to really broaden the range,” says Ginsberg. “We want seafood chilies and fruit chilies and chocolate chilies. We want to give the public a lot to think about and a lot to taste.”

And, since the public are the judges, it makes perfect sense. With the price of admission, each person receives a dried bean. It is this bean that becomes the ballot – dropped into the mason jar of choice – in front of the favored chili. At the end of the day, all the mason jars are emptied of their contents, the bean counters take over and the jar with the most beans, determines the winner. The City’s Mayor will be handing out the checks. First prize is $500.00; second, $300.00; and third $150.00 – no small potatoes for a morning’s work in the kitchen!

And there’s more! The organization has upped the ante further this year by including a new prize category – Table Decoration. “Last year, we noticed a few participants got into the spirit of things by dressing up their tables,” says Ginsberg. “They looked so great that we decided that we should make that an additional challenge this year.” As the rules say, “Be creative”. The organizers are open to almost anything – from stuffed rattlesnakes to chili pepper lights, serape tablecloths and electronic maracas. The only stipulation is that the access to the chili itself can’t be blocked. And, at least for now, decoration is optional. “There may be cooks who just want to concentrate on the food,” Ginsberg explains.

The Chili Contest is presented as a fund raiser for Hudson Valley Bounty – an enlarged version of Columbia County Bounty. And while they are eager to expand the base of their membership, they also are soliciting a wider range of cooks. So Dutchess and Ulster counties are now being courted to show up with great chili, too. Since this is the organization that produces the noteworthy “Taste of…” event every August, expansion is sure to bring added excellence.

“The timing is perfect for an event like this,” Ginsberg concludes. “Folks can take a break from art shopping, clear their heads and have some fun. For a $5.00 admission we include yummy chili, entertainment for children, beer, wine and a terrific band. And it supports a great cause. Our goal is to make the Contest an important part of Columbus Day weekend every year.

Come see Asia Luna at the Hudson Chili Cookoff October 9!

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