Despite the nearly 60-degree gain in daytime highs following the polar vortex freeze, the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce could not have asked for better
weather Saturday, Feb. 2, for its annual Chili Cook-off at Breidert Green.

For the past 24 years, the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Village of Frankfort to host the Chili Cook-Off as part of the Winter on the Green series that runs January through February.

With free entry to the event, an estimated 300 people picked up their spoon, napkin and ballots and sampled the varieties of chili in the cook-off before voting for their favorite.The categories included “Best Amateur,” “Best Professional,” and even a “Crowd Pleaser,” and with 16 amateurs and four pros, the competition was as hot as some of the recipes.

While the venue has varied from places like the Trolley Barn and Heritage Hall previously, having the competition outside at historic Breidert Green adds to the experience of a Frankfort event.

“We’re here in the heart of Frankfort, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day for this to happen,” said Chris Herder, Frankfort Chamber of Commerce director. Herder said he could remember when his mom started the event more than two decades ago.

“I still remember it being on this same stage,” he recalled. “It was a lot smaller back then, maybe with only 12 or so competitors. It’s amazing to see how [the cook-off] has grown and that it’s become a Frankfort tradition.”

One of the competitors was Werning Maintenance, showcasing a chili recipe made by Randy Siedentop. While it was the business’s first year competing in the cook-off, owner Heinz Werning and wife Ilona have attended many of the summer events on the Green and wanted to get in on the action of the winter event.

One of the things Werning enjoys most about the cookout is being able to mingle with the community he serves. “It’s all about connecting with [the community,] and associating yourself with it as a person too rather than just a business,” he said. “It’s an added bonus that we can get some signage out there, but the overall experience for me really comes with being in the community. “A lot of the exhibitors are actual chamber members. They get come here, pass out some chili and maybe talk about their business a little bit, but more than anything they’re meeting their community. For the chamber, it shows that the we do some really neat things for Frankfort.”

For Kim Shehorn and her children Molly and Max Martin, the cook-out offered an opportunity to get outside following the previous week’s frigid temperatures, as well as the chance to try some delicious chili.

“One of our neighbors is competing, and she’s a great cook, so we had to come out and support her,” Shehorn said. While Shehorn’s children may not eat the chili she makes, they were excited to try some recipes that weren’t their moms.“I wasn’t a huge fan of chili growing up, but when it comes to other people’s chili, that’s another story,” Max joked.

After the votes were tallied, the winners were announced on the Briedert Green stage. In the amateur category, Kent and Debbie Sieb took home second
prize, with Joe Kosteck coming in first. The winner of the professional division was Dancing Marlin, and the crowd pleaser winner was Adam Tokarski, Jeff French and Chris Farry.

The final event of the 2019 Winter on the Green series will be a special Valentines event with chocolate fondue and will take place Feb. 9 from noon to 2 p.m. at Briedert Green. For more information, visit www.villageoffrankfort.com.