WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — A beloved North Country event will return in 2022.

The Volunteer Transportation Center, Inc., has announced that it will again host its Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off again in February. But, according to event organizers, due to high transmission rates of the virus in Jefferson County and increased statewide protocols, the Cook-Off will be held in a modified format.

Prior to the pandemic, the event was held at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown on the first Saturday of February. In 2021 it returned also in a modified format and was held for the entire month of February.

This format allowed restaurants to participate from Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. It was held similar to a “pub crawl” format where those wishing to sample and vote on their favorite entries were able to at local businesses. The 2022 Cook-Off will be held in the same format.

According to VTC Foundation Director and Director of Communications Jeremiah S. Papineau, the month-long event was a success and 28 restaurants participated and raised $28,000 for the organization.

“We were overwhelmed with the support not just because it’s the cook-off and people look forward to it but because it’s also a very important fundraiser,” Papineau said in a press release.

Although the event typically raises upwards of $40,000, Papineau said that they are continuing to host the event as the need for transportation has not ceased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The North Country Chili Cook-Off was known for drawing hundreds to thousands of people each year prior to the pandemic. And we hope to be back to that point in the future. However, as we continue to navigate the pandemic, we have to continue to do so in a responsible way that still keeps the spirit of our event alive,” he added.

Restaurants interested in participating in the 2022 North Country Chili Cook-Off can register free of charge by filling out an entry form and either entering a chili from their existing menu or creating a special chili for the even. Chefs are also encouraged to offer samples of their entries at a cost of their choosing.

Votes for the best chili can be cast throughout the month of February on the Volunteer Transportation Center website. The deadline to enter the cook-off or to be a sponsor is Friday, January 14, 2022.