McPherson Main Street’s Burnin' Down Main Chili & Soup Cook-Off has been a hometown favorite in McPherson for the past 16 years.

Ann Engel, executive director of McPherson Main Street, said this family event draws a lot of attention to the downtown McPherson area and this year, there’s a lot to look forward to.

"We like to create different activities in McPherson to feature our local talents, our local businesses and the products and services that are available here,” Engel said.

The event is on Oct. 7, with public tasting starting at noon at the Downtown Plaza, located at Main and Marlin Streets in McPherson.

On the cook-off side, there will be categories of soup, chili and dessert. Contestants in the cook-off should submit entries and the $25 entrance fee by Sept. 25. The fee will be returned to contestants when they compete Oct. 7. This year, dessert entries must include bacon.

The total prize package of $2,600 will be awarded to winners in categories of chili, soup, team spirit, pie eating, corn hole and dessert. The top prize is $500 for first place in the chili contest and $500 for first place in the soup contest.

Attendees can purchase a $5 wristband to sample cook-off selections. All other exhibits like face painting, touch-a-truck and paint-a-pumpkin are free.

New this year is a corn hole tournament for those 15 years and older. Out of the $10 entrance fee, $5 will go to the Plaza Renovation Fund. Registration to play corn hole begins at noon, drawing a partner begins at 12:30 p.m. and the game begins at 1 p.m.

Also new this year, the event will offer deals with Delish-Taste Life and Noffy’s Sandwich Shop & Pub across the street.

“We’ve added a Three Rings Brewery tap takeover inside the business, so the people wearing their wristband can go over to Noffy’s or Delish from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and will get special discounts with their wristbands on any of the Three Rings beers that are sold during that time. A dollar from each beer will be donated to the plaza fund,” Engel explained.

The money donated to the Plaza Renovation Fund will be used in the renovations of the plaza area. The current plan is to add more shade, a speaker system for concerts and events, art, more seating, a water element and green space.

“Overall, the plan is to utilize that space more right now. It’s not utilized and it could really be an outdoor convention center,” she said.

The chili cook-off started off as a fundraiser for McPherson Main Street, but has taken on new life.

“Now it's more of an event that people like and draws a lot of people downtown. We hope when they're down there that they'll wander around and go into the stores and check out McPherson," Engel said. "We gradually try to reach out to the community to see what we might be able to add and we've turned this into a family, fall festival-type event."

There will also be touch-a-truck where kids can talk to the operators and climb in the trucks from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

The “Look Ma, No Hands" cream pie eating contest will be held at 1:30 p.m. on the plaza stage. There is no cost to enter, but contestants should register in advance to get a spot. A $175 prize will be awarded to the winner.

A free pumpkin decorating station will be from 11:30 a.m. through 1:30 p.m., or until supplies last. Free face painting will be held from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

Also new this year is live music performed by “I Heard a Lion” starting at 12:30 p.m., sponsored by the McPherson Convention Visitors Bureau.

"We're trying to continually raise money for the fund and draw attention to downtown McPherson and what all we have," Engel said.

To volunteer or enter the competition, visit

Contact Brooke Haas by email at or follow her on Twitter @MacSentinel.