The aroma of soup, chili and peanut butter will waft through the air at the 17th annual Burnin’ Down Main Cook-off, held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at the downtown plaza located at the intersection of Main and Marlin streets in McPherson.

At the McPherson Main Street event, teams come downtown to cook up batches of soup, chili and peanut butter-based desserts to compete for prizes.

“There are a lot of opportunities to win money and it’s just a really fun day,” said Ann Engel, executive director of McPherson Main Street.

Public tasting of the soup and chili will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. All participants must purchase a $5 wristband to receive a sample of each entry and the opportunity to vote for Soup, Chili and Team Spirit. Wristbands also provide the chance to sample multiple desserts after the Dessert Contest judging.

“For a $5 wristband, you’re going to eat so much chili, soup and dessert — it’s the least expensive meal you can get anywhere,” Engel said. “...There’s no way anyone could leave there hungry.”

The soup and chili competition gives chefs the chance to prepare gallons of their recipe for sampling. McPherson Main Street provides a ladle, sampling cups, gloves, ballot box, spoons and napkins, along with electricity if needed. 

Voting for the soup and chili will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  The purchase of a wristband allows one vote for the chili, soup and spirit awards. Cash prizes of $500, $250 and $100 will be awarded to the first-, second- and third-place winners. Soup and chili competitors are also encouraged to decorate their booths to vie for a spirit award with a $200 prize.

Burnin’ Down Main’s  seventh annual dessert contest requires competitors to feature peanut butter in their recipes. There will be two categories of desserts for the contest — one including cakes, brownies, muffins and breads and another including candy, cookies and pies. A panel of judges will determine a first place (with a $100 prize) and second place (with a $50 prize) winner in each category. Judging will take place at 11 a.m. and winners will be announced around 2 p.m.

After judging, dessert samples will be served to those with wristbands while supplies last.

If you are still hungry after all that sampling, chili donated by Wendy’s will be available at no extra cost for those with wristbands. Local non-profit groups will also sell water and soft drinks. 

Competitors can register to participate through Sept. 28.

“It’s open to individuals or businesses, organizations, church groups — anybody,” Engel said.

Downtown stores will be open during the event for attendees to shop before or after they eat.

Burnin’ Down Main will also have activities including face painting and a touch-a-truck area with construction, first responder and utility vehicles between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

“The kids can usually get inside and honk the horns,” Engel said.

Free pumpkins will also be given to the first 100 kids with paint available for decorating on site.

Live music sponsored by the McPherson Convention and Visitors Bureau will be performed by Sam Unruh beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Registration for a corn hole tournament will begin at 10 a.m.

A pie-eating contest will also take place during Burnin’ Down Main.

“I’m still looking for one sponsor for that,” Engel said.

Volunteers are also needed to run activities, judge desserts and assist with set up and tear down duties.

“I can always use volunteers for all kinds of jobs,” Engel said.

Shuttle services will be available between Main Street and the Kansas Barn Sale in Lakeside Park.

For more information about Burnin’ Down Main, the contests or to volunteer, visit or call 620-241-7430.