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Antigo Chili Cookoff returns with hot chocolate, community, and of course lots of chili

Katie Thoresen

Right along downtown Antigo’s main drag, dozens of booths covered the sidewalks in front of businesses.

Ashley Dieck and the women of Fantastic Sam’s booth stood out in the crowd.

“Our girl Kiana made it into a gingerbread house this year. We decided to start decorating it differently every year,” said Dieck.

A brown wood shelter painted with white swirls and bright colored dots made to resemble gingerbread, icing, and candy.

“It all comes apart, next year you won’t recognized it,” she said.

Inside the gingerbread house, chili has been cooking all day.

While known for their white chicken chili, Dieck switched it up a bit this year.

“We have tried a few kinds in the past. The white chicken chili is our signature chili. This year, we’re actually doing it different and doing a spicy and a non-spicy,” said Dieck.

Mostly, Dieck is just happy to be back doing it again this year. The annual event was greatly missed last year.

“We look forward to this every,” she said. “We were sad when we didn’t have it last year.”

Antigo/Langlade County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center Executive Director Deena Grabowsky can’t image a better way to kick off the holiday season.

“Everyone looks forward to it and gets excited for the Chili Cook Off cause it’s the first part of December,” she said. “It’s kicking off the holiday season. It’s very festive down here. It brings a lot of energy and joy to the businesses in the downtown.”

The whole community gets involved. In addition to every who is out cooking, and then later eating the chili, The Optimists Club is out selling cheese curds and Salvation Army hands out cookies and hot chocolate.

“We probably make about 50 gallons of hot chocolate, and we have over 700 cookies that will be available today,” said Nick Salm.

Salm has been volunteering for the Salvation Army at the event for 10 years now.

“I like just getting together with people. And the people appreciate what we’re doing. They thank us for volunteering and it’s a good cause. And I’m retired so I get to do fun stuff like this,” he said.

No matter what brought them out to the Chili Cook Off, people agree it’s a good way to spend the day and ring in the holiday season.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s super fun,” said Dieck.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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