Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew

Popular Madison fall event
returns Oct. 12

Chamber festival helps
drum up business for Main Street

(October 2013) – Everyone who takes part in the annual Soup, Stew, Chili, and Brew contest has a secret. Sometimes it is a special ingredient that is never shared with others; sometimes it is a particular method of preparation that gives each dish that little something special. But every now and then, some cooks are willing to whisper just what it takes to have a dish that wins the hearts of the judges.

Entertainment Schedule

11:45-11:55 a.m.: Barefoot Best Friends
12:20-1 p.m.: Keith Swinney
1:20-2 p.m.: Andra Bladen
2-2:40 p.m.: Rusty Bladen
2:55-3:35 p.m.: The Slick River Rockets
4 p.m.: Awards Presentation
4:45-6 p.m.: Andrea Davidson

Lucy Dattilo, owner of the gift and decor shop Something Simple, shares that the secret to her husband, Mark Goebel’s, chili is “not measuring.”
“My husband, he thinks he’s got the best chili in the world,” she says laughing. Dattilo admits that she got a little nervous that his chili might not turn out as good as it does at home as she watched him put his dish together during the competition last year. “You have to cook it there on the street,” she explains, and watching him toss ingredients in seemingly by instinct had her worried. However, his instincts proved successful when he earned the Something Simple booth second place in the chili category behind the restaurant Crystal and Jules.
This year’s Soup, Stew, Chili, and Brew festival is set for Saturday, Oct. 12, with tasting and entertainment running from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Madison’s Main Street. Organized for the 11th year by the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, the event brings together community businesses, organizations and families to compete for bragging rights in the popular cooking contest. Guests to the festival purchase tickets for a dollar a piece that are then redeemed for servings of various sizes from small samples to large bowls. This gives visitors more chances to try out a wide range of the delicious items available. In addition to the food, Event Coordinator Katie Wood invites guests to come out and enjoy live music throughout the afternoon. “We are excited about our entertainment lineup this year,” she says enthusiastically.
Organizers are looking to draw about 30 food booths, many of which will compete in the festival’s four categories, with “brew” referring to non-alcoholic beverages such as hot chocolates and ciders. Additionally, there is a special category for best firehouse chili, an honor that was captured last year by Clifty No. 6 Fire Company. Participants also compete to have the best-decorated booth. Designs typically range from traditional straw bales and pumpkins to an elaborate Wizard of Oz-themed booth complete with a smashed witch.

Soup Stew

Photo courtesy of Madison Chamber

Visitors line up to try various foods and beverages during last year’s Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew festival.

Dattilo said she is always pleased to see booth organizers show off their creativity, not only in the cooking, but also in their decorating. “People who embrace it, people that really get into it – they really get the most return on their dollars,” she notes.
“I think it is a unique festival in Madison because it is held on Main Street, right in the middle of downtown,” says Wood, a chamber employee. The event serves as a good chance for restaurants to get their signature items out in front of a large number of people.
Dattilo explains that the festival is important to downtown business since it comes at the start of the holiday shopping season. “You’ve got your best products” and the event is a way to “get people to your doorstep.” “When you invest locally in small business, it goes back into your community. It turns over and over.”
Dattilo was particularly pleased with her booth’s success last year. In addition to the placing of her husband’s chili, her sister-in-law, Kim Goebel, earned the team second place in brew.
This year, Dattilo will be hard at work behind the scenes as an Event Coordinator, so the family will not be coming back to compete.
She says that her family’s placings last year were very meaningful to her since she was able to speak first-hand of the thrill of victory while promoting the event to new business competitors this year. “That’s what’s so exciting,” she says. “We have to recruit people to participate,” and she hopes that her booth’s success illustrates some of the fun that competitors can have.
Dattilo is very excited that the event has become such an established tradition that those businesses that have recently moved downtown have been eagerly approaching her to learn how to get involved. She sees the event as “another way of building relationships” between businesses and the community, and between business owners themselves.
The event is also special because it allows booth organizers to fund-raise for some of their favorite causes. Something Simple sponsored the Shawe Memorial High School Track Team, and the money they raised last year went toward buying the boys and girls teams the first new uniforms that they had seen in several years.
Dattilo has been a part of Soup, Stew, Chili, and Brew since it first began in 1993. She opened Something Simple that same year and says proudly of her store and the festival, “We’ve grown up together.” She looks forward to the event saying, “It’s a great time of year. The leaves are changing, the backdrop is nice, the weather is good.”
Dattilo believes that key to the festival’s  long-running success is actually quite simple. “It’s about eating. You really can’t go wrong.”

• For more information about participating in the event, contact the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce at (812) 265-3135.

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