East Lansing heats up the annual Winter Bowl

Despite budget issues early on, the city of East Lansing will host its annual Winter Bowl soup and chili cook-off Sunday Dec. 6.

The event is free to the public and is held at Ann Street Plaza, Parking Lot one and the East Lansing Marriott from 1-4 p.m.

“The city struggled with budget issues early on in the planning, so we weren’t sure how the event would be this year,” Mikell Frey, city of East Lansing communications coordinator, said. “The city used to fund the whole event, but this year we needed local business sponsors.”

One of the East Lansing Winter Bowl's reindeer from the 2009 event. (photo courtasy cityofeastlansing.com)

According to Frey, who has promoted the holiday event since 2006, this year’s event will only experience minor changes despite the city’s financial struggles.

While presented by the city, the Winter Bowl’s holiday activities are sponsored this year by MSU Federal Credit Union, Dean Transportation, Downtown Management Board, Silver & Beyond and Crunchy’s.

“Silver & Beyond owner Siham Daladi was instrumental this year when there was a chance of the festival not happening at all,” Frey said.

Daladi, who owns showcase gallery and specialty item store Silver & Beyond, has supported the Winter Bowl since she opened her store in 2004.

“To me it is all about giving back to the community and I like to be involved  in the community,” Daladi said.  “When the event is happening it is so clear why it is so close to my heart—I look forward to it each year.”

Daladi runs the Giving Tree, a six year tradition at the event. Community members select names from the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing and throughout the holiday season bring in holiday gifts for their selected child to the Silver & Beyond store.

“The generosity of the community is overwhelming,” she said. “One year someone bought a bike yet they didn’t have money themselves.  They were looking around my store and saying how they couldn’t afford anything in the store yet they bought a bike for someone else.”

In addition to the Giving Tree, activities at the event include free chili and soup sampling, reindeer petting, horse and carriage rides, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, ice carving, a marshmallow roast, musical performances, roaming carolers, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts.

“We’ve pretty much got it down now, we’ve been doing it for over ten years,” event coordinator Michelle Carlson said.  “We always use the same Santa and try to keep most everything the same—we downsized the layout for this year but otherwise its exactly the same people really look forward it so we don’t like to change it too much.”

While the event’s plethora of activities provide something for everyone, the main attraction remains the chili and soup cook-off located in Parking Lot one, where the public can taste samples and cast their votes.  The cook-off is a prime exposure for restaurants regardless of outcome, and the winning competitors from last year are set to return.

“We are lining ourselves up for another shot at the title again this year,” Harrison Roadhouse manager Gabriel Jones said.  “In the restaurant industry, bragging rights are important and winning the chili cook-off is a great honor because there are some great recipes in our community so we are able to say we are the best of the best.”

Last year’s judge’s choice winner, Harrison Roadhouse plans to make the same recipe for this year’s competition.

“We always do pretty strong – even if we don’t win we usually place,”  Jones said. “We do a white chicken chili, which sets us apart. Ours is cream based, very thick and very rich and hearty.”

While the turnout varies each year due to the weather, the planners expect a full turnout this year.

“This is one event where we get a pretty good college turnout – free food and samples,” Frey said. “Everyone really enjoys this event.”

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About katiedalebout

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