Volunteers make 10th annual Urbana beer, chili fest a success

Beer steins filled to the brim with lager and ale, great food and good laughs are things that people are accustomed to seeing at events like Oktoberfest in Germany. However, this weekend, a similar atmosphere was experienced in downtown Urbana. Urbana’s Annual International Beer Tasting and Chili Cook-Off returned for the tenth time Saturday.

The beer tasting was an opportunity for attendees to sample over 150 types of imported beers and microbrews from all over the world, while the cook-off allowed attendees to try chili made by teams of local amateur and professional cooks.

Mike Armintrout, director of operations at Jay Goldberg Events and Entertainment, said this event is something the local community craves because of its connection to autumn.

“Everything about this cook-off screams fall,” Armintrout said. “We’ve got hot chili and cold beer, you can’t ask for a better pairing than that on a fall day. We highly encourage everyone to try a little bit of everything because there might be something here that becomes your new favorite.”

Although there were people from as far as Rantoul, Mahomet and Bloomington in attendance, Armintrout said the local residents’ and University students’ support for this festival is what keeps it going. The event relies on community volunteers to run efficiently, he said.

“Without the volunteers, we could not run this event at such a low cost of $8 admission,” Armintrout said.

Volunteers came from all around the area, but Armintrout said most of them were students who came with a variety of organizations, such as sororities and fraternities.

Christian Trejo, senior in Engineering, was one of the student volunteers helping run the event with the national service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. Trejo volunteered about three hours to serve samples of beer to attendees and was given free admission into the event. Initially, he did not know what he would be doing at the cook-off.

“It’s not often that you get to distribute alcohol for volunteer service,” he said.

“Events like this are definitely a platform to provide a wider perspective on things around the campus, not just within it,” Trejo said.

Heather Kipnis, senior in FAA, said the cook-off emanated a friendly environment. She said she would be interested in attending the event again.

“I love that Urbana has a really good sense of community,” Kipnis said. “Everyone’s in a really good mood, and people are enjoying this atmosphere.”

Armintrout and the people behind Jay Goldberg Events and Entertainment and the Urbana Business Association, who together organized the event, plan on continuing this cook-off for as long as the demand exists. For Armintrout, it is as much about giving back to the community as it is about the food and beer itself.

“We’re honored to be able to bring this type of beer and chili culture to the town that our offices are located in, and we’ll keep doing it as long as it’s what the people want,” Armintrout said.