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Event takes off winter chill

Joe McIntyre/staff hotographer

Alexandra Huntington-Ofner, right, of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, helps SUNY Cortland alumni Sean and Jess O’Neil get started on their tour of downtown eateries Saturday while at the Cortland Beer Co. for the annual Chill-A-Bration event.

From chili flavored popcorn to a “desert chili,” the hundreds of community members who participated Saturday in the 10th annual Chill-A-Bration were treated to a variety of chili options.

More than 20 downtown businesses took part in the midwinter attraction, giving those who partook a chance to fill their stomachs with mounds of chili and explore what Cortland’s downtown businesses have to offer.

Many of the options were an extension of what the businesses offer on a daily basis.

Frosted, at 133 Main St., created a “desert chili” made of cookies, whipped cream, custard and an assortment of other ingredients Dan Furgal, an employee at the bakery, did not want to divulge.

“We wanted to do something fun,” he said. “It fits well with the business.” This is the third year Frosted has offered its chili variant, and it has become one of Cortland resident Bonnie Quackenbush’s favorites.

Frosted was one of her and her husband’s first stops in their pursuit to try the assortment of chili options around the city. They have taken part in Chill-A-Bration since it started.

“I like trying all the different types of chili,” said her husband Michael DiMattei. “Some surprise me.”

Those who went to the Cortland Beer Co., at 16 Court St., may have been surprised to find there was not chili; instead there was chili flavored popcorn and hazelnut hot chocolate that people could get with marshmallows and the business’ new homemade vodka.

“We wanted to do something different this year,” said Dawn Zarnowski, owner of the business. “It is a good way to let people know we have vodka.”

The Cortland Beer Co. was one of the stops for Shawn and Jess O’Neil, who both graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2012, and now live in Syracuse.

The two met in college and returned to Cortland to relive some old memories and enjoy the event.

“It is fun to come back to Cortland,” said Jess O’Neil. “I love the Chill-A-Bration.”

“You get chili and beer. I can’t think of a better Saturday,” Sean O’Neil said.

Among the crowd of people trekking up and down Main Street, were current college students visiting their favorite restaurants and businesses, as well as new ones.

For SUNY Cortland senior Kristin Litz, this was her first year taking part in Chill-A-Bration.
“It is awesome,” she said.

She and her friend, Chelsea Landolf, who came up from Binghamton to take part in the event with her, planned on venturing to as many businesses as they could on the map that listed all of the participating venues.

In the early stage of their journey, Long Island Bagel’s chili with a bottom layer of cream cheese was their favorite. The same went for many other participants.

Sam Braine, owner of Long Island Bagel, at 33 Main St., said 12 gallons of the chili had been made in preparation for the event and within the first hour of the event, the establishment went through 4 gallons.

Along with the cream cheese bottom, tying in the concept of the business with the chili, he also offered homemade bagel chips on the side.

Cyndi Guy, a board member of the Cortland Downtown Partnership — the organization that puts on the even — said as of Saturday evening this year’s Chill-A-Bration was a little slower than previous years, but there were still hundreds of people participating.

“People who have done it before are happy to be doing it again, and I have seen some new people join,” she said. “It is a great way to get to know the city.”