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Chili Town, Boro 5K return with Santa
Youth-benefit events part of First Friday Holiday Celebration
Mckinley Parrish, 3, is readied by mom Jessica before joining Santa's elves for the 2017 parade in the Downtown Statesboro's First Friday Holiday Celebration. The festivities also included local entertainment, craft and food vendors, and the annual Chili Town cookoff. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Santa is coming to downtown Friday, along with a chili cooking contest that benefits the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County and a 5K run that will raise funds for the Statesboro Family YMCA.

The First Friday Holiday Celebration typically draws the second-largest crowd of the monthly First Fridays coordinated by the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority. October’s Scare on the Square is usually bigger. But the Holiday Celebration, 5–8 p.m. and beyond on Dec. 7, combines several popular events in one.

There’s the Chili Town cookoff hosted by the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Run the Boro 5K, still launched from City Hall but now put on by the YMCA; and the overall celebration including Santa’s 5:45 p.m. mini parade, a community stage with Christmas carolers and dancers and the festival with food and gift vendors.


Chili Town

Although Chili Town is an older tradition, 2017 was the first year that trophies were awarded in four categories. Winners have displayed their trophies throughout the year, generating interest. So the same categories —  People’s Choice, Overall Best Chili, Best Restaurant Chili and Best Decorated Booth — will return this year, said Justin Samples, Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing manager.

“We want the public to understand that it’s completely free to go in and taste the chili, and it’s free to enter a booth (as a chili cook or cooking team),” he said. “The only thing people have to pay for, if they choose to, would be the voting for People’s Choice. We just want to get people in and enjoying it and having a good time.”

All proceeds from the $1 tickets used to vote for the People’s Choice chili will go to the Boys & Girls Club, he said.

Chili Town opens at 5:30 with the festival, and awards will be presented at 7 p.m., also the time for Run the Boro and parade results.


Run the Boro

For individuals competing in the Run the Boro 5-kilometer race, the entry fee is $25, since the deadline for a lower fee and guaranteed T-shirt has passed. But for teams of 10 or more, the fee drops to $20 per runner, and Statesboro YMCA members also receive a discount. For a child to compete in the new Kiddie Run, the fee is $10.

The Kiddie Run has been added because Run the Boro is being hosted by the Statesboro Family YMCA, said Elena McLendon, the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority’s event coordinator.

“In addition, with Run the Boro being put on by the YMCA, they are going to have child care available during the race because they have certified child care watchers,” she said.

Child care will be provided at Joe Brannen Hall, beside City Hall, so parents can run in the race while their children enjoy popcorn and a movie in a safe environment, McLendon said.

A Run the Boro registration form can be found online at, a web page hosted by the city of Statesboro. Race day registration will be available at City Hall, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.

The Kiddie Run will start at 5 p.m., followed by the main race at 5:30 p.m.



Mayor Jonathan McCollar will be master of ceremonies for the opening of the festival at 5:30 p.m. Then the parade, featuring decorated dune buggies, golf carts, dance teams and Santa Claus, will proceed from West Main Street and along East Main at 5:45 p.m. Afterward, Santa and Mrs. Claus will appear at photo booth in the Emma Kelly Theater at the Averitt Center for the Arts to have pictures taken with children, and the Kidz Farm train ride will be available in the Synovus parking lot.


Live Christmas music

Twenty cooking teams competed in 2017’s Chili Town, but hundreds, at least, of people sampled their chili. Last year’s winning teams were Ogeechee Technical College Culinary Arts for Best Overall, Cool Beanz Espresso Bar for Best Restaurant Chili, Y-Delta for People’s Choice and Total Tire & Auto Care of Statesboro for Best Decorated Booth.

“We look forward to a good turnout again this year,” Samples said.

Competition is still open to additional chili chefs. A Chili Town registration form, with guidelines, can be found online at the bottom of the page. Or call the DSDA at (912) 764-7227 or the SCVB at (912) 489-1869.

This year’s lineup for the community stage at the courthouse extends beyond the 5–8 p.m. festival timeframe. Scheduled performances include the Southern Saxophones beginning at 5 p.m., Averitt Center performers at 6 p.m., Dancers Edge at 6:30 p.m., Helen Redding School of Dance at 7:05 p.m., the Brooklet Elementary School Choir at 7:30 p.m., Crossroads Community Church at 8 p.m., First Baptist Church at 8:15 p.m., Believers Church at 8:30 p.m. and the Washingtons from 8:45–9 p.m.

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