Chili for conservation: Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge hosts Chili Cookoff

Feb 6, 2024 | Ottawa Outdoors | 0 comments

Tundra swans fly across Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in this photo by Lori Monska.

One of the hottest events around, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge’s Chili Cookoff, is coming to Oak Harbor on Saturday, Feb. 17, noon to 3 p.m. Guests are invited to bring a crockpot of their best chili recipe to compete for one of the coveted awards.

The free, family-friendly competition is open to the public. To enter a favorite recipe in the competition, simply bring a crockpot of chili at 12 p.m. to the Visitor Center at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, located at 14000 SR 2 in Oak Harbor. The judges’ tasting will begin at 1 p.m. with public tasting to follow. Awards will include the Judges’ Choice Golden Ladle Award, the 4 Alarm (hottest chili) Award, the Most Unique Award and the People’s Choice Award.

The competition is sponsored by Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, a 501(c)3 nonprofit established in 1997 that supports the conservation mission of Ohio’s only national wildlife refuge complex by acquiring land, engaging the community, and enhancing public access. Any donations collected during this event will help to fund projects around Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and support future events and tours that are open to the public.

The Chili Cookoff will happen in conjunction with the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Swan Fest on Saturday, Feb. 17 and Sunday, Feb. 18. The festival will celebrate swans with different educational activities, games and crafts at the Visitor Center and opportunities to view swans along the Wildlife Drive and hiking trails. The Visitor Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with activities planned throughout the day.

The Wildlife Drive is also scheduled to be open Feb. 17-18, weather permitting. This 7-mile self-guided route takes you through the woodland, wetland and prairie habitats of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. The one-way route begins in the back of the Visitor Center parking lot and is open from sunrise to one hour before sunset.

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