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Friends of WPA’s annual Free Chili Tasting set for Jan. 31

Date: 1/22/2015

WILBRAHAM – The Annual Free Chili Tasting hosted by the Friends of the Wilbraham Public Access is back on Jan. 31 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include at least 10 local contestants for a “People’s Choice” contest, a 50/50 raffle, and live music.

The event will take place for the second year in a row at the St. Cecilia Parish Center, 42 Main St., and will be a pre-Super Bowl celebration that will take place snow, rain or shine.

William Caruana, a member of the Friends of the Wilbraham Public Access, said the event has been taking place for at least eight years and last year about 400 people came to the chili tasting. His hope this year is that 500 people attend the event.

“We’ve been taking actually donations of raffle prizes this year,” he added. “It’s something new we’re doing. We’re reaching out to the community.”

Dulce Nowak, co-chair of the Friends of Wilbraham Public Access, said last year the Village Store & Café won the People’s Choice Award.

“It’s free chili, you can’t beat that,” Caruana said.
    This year contestants include chefs from Anchor House, Dana’s Grillroom, Big Y Supermarket of Wilbraham, Krazy Jake’s, Life Care Center of Wilbraham, Neighborhood Pizza, Texas Roadhouse on Cooley Street in Springfield, The Village Store & Café, Wingate at Wilbraham, and Orchard Valley.

The previous year, Stewart Johnson of the former Johnson’s Catering won the People’s Choice Award for a hot Chicago style chili, Caruana said.

“One of the things that’s interesting was that [The Village Store’s] was more of a traditional chili than we had the previous year’s winner,” he added. “[Johnson’s] chili was hot and full of beans. This was back to what I would normally expect a chili to be; meaty, a little spicy and very flavorful.”

Some of the chefs and restaurants will also have quarts of chili available to purchase, Nowak said.

Nicole Murdoch, owner of the Village Store & Café at 462 Main St., said last year’s recipe was a turkey chili she thinks her business will win again this year because, “We’re hometown, homemade.”

There are at least 40 different items being raffled this year, including a dental whitening discount for $200 and gift certificates to local businesses, Nowak said. Hot dogs will also be available to purchase for $1 each.    

Music at the event will include fiddler James Gulberg from Wilbraham as well as other violinists, Madeline Flanagan, assistant clerk for the Friends of Wilbraham Public Access, said.