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Port Huron Chilly Fest set for Saturday

Photo courtesy of Chilly Fest/Facebook The annual Chilly Fest in Port Huron will welcome hundreds of people to downtown this weekend.

This year it’s all outdoors

By Barb Pert Templeton

Bundle up and bring your walking shoes to downtown Port Huron this weekend as the annual Chilly Fest takes over downtown on Saturday. 

“It’s going to look different because in the past we had things inside a tent, the band, and a bar, this year while COVID numbers continue to be high we are going to have everything outdoors,” DDA Director Natacha Hayden said.

This year’s Chilly Fest is set for Saturday, January 29 beginning at 11 a.m. and is being hosted by the Downtown Development Authority, McMorran Place, Port Huron Parks & Recreation, and the Chilly Fest Committee.

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Photo courtesy of the Port Huron DDA
Chili samples will be offered from nine businesses downtown and visitors will be asked to vote on their favorite.

Activities along McMorran Boulevard, which will be closed to traffic that day, include free carriage rides, a s’more making station, and an outdoor kids’ zone. There will also be an information station there for visitors to pick up their ballots for the chili and window decorating competitions.

The chili contest, which also used to be in a tent, instead has been changed to a ‘chili crawl’ and nine area restaurants will offer samples to ticket holders. A booth will be set up to purchase a $5 ticket that includes the list of chili tasting locations and a rating system for the public to vote on the chilis.

Hayden said each participating venue will pass out either two- or four-ounce cups of chili to patrons and then a point system will help them rate the dish. Chili’s will be rated on things like color, taste, aroma, and after taste.

Another highly anticipated activity downtown will be the fuzzy penguin hunt that will have participants visiting shops downtown to try and locate a bean baby size version of a penguin, Hayden said. After finding the penguin, the location is recorded on a card provided and all cards will be placed into a drawing and the winner will take home a large version of the fuzzy penguin as a prize.

Photo courtesy of the Port Huron DDA
A giant stuffed penguin will be the prize following a find the fuzzy penguin scavenger hunt downtown.

A window decorating contest with some 40 local shops signed up to show off original displays with snow and ice themes will also include input from the public. After picking up a voting ballot at the DDA/Chamber headquarters downtown, people can view all the windows and vote for their favorite one, Hayden said.

A cornhole tournament at 2 p.m. and watching professionals carve ice sculptures from 1 to 3 p.m. at Military Park will be other highlights of the day.

The festival will also offer a couple of options for beverages including a coco crawl with businesses around town offering up the warm drink all afternoon or a visit to McMorran Place will allow visitors to purchase an adult beverage and enjoy them while walking around downtown.

A popular activity that didn’t make the schedule this year is the bed races. Hayden said organizers decided to forgo that event just to keep people at a safer distance during the pandemic.

Photo courtesy of the Port Huron DDA
Visitors will be asked to pay $5 for a ticket that will include the opportunity to sample nine different chili’s from restaurants downtown between noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Overall, having the winter event on the calendar in late January is a tradition the city would like to continue and is pleased to see the schedule growing with new ideas each year. 

“We’ve had as many as 3,000 people come out for this in the past,” Hayden said.

The businesses participating in the chili contest are:

A Little Something
Chef Shell’s Restaurant & Catering
City Flats Hotel
Kate’s Downtown
Lynch’s Irish Tavern
Mama Vicki’s Coney Island
Moe’s Corner Deli
Raven Cafe
What The Fry

To learn more about the event go to

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