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HUNTINGTON — Due to the coronavirus pandemic, event organizers and the Huntington Ronald McDonald House have announced that the 37th annual ChiliFest has been canceled for 2020.

Event organizer Ron Smith said in a news release that after reviewing Gov. Jim Justice’s guidelines for fairs and festivals, there was no feasible way to run the event as it should be without jeopardizing the health of those who would come to support it.

“We’ve come to the decision that it’s not going to happen this year and that next year we will come back bigger and better than ever and really put on a great show for people,” Smith said.

ChiliFest had been held continuously for 36 years.

Annually one of Huntington’s largest events, drawing thousands to the downtown area, ChiliFest also serves as the main fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of the Tri-State, which serves families with sick children by providing lodging, meals, toiletries and more while keeping families together during a medical crisis.

The first ChiliFest was held in 1983. As well as being a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House and WSAZ Children’s Charities, the event is a qualifying event to represent West Virginia in the International Chili Society World’s Chili Championship. That championship has also been delayed until the spring of 2021. Because of that postponement, the ICS made the decision to automatically qualify all cooks who competed in the 2019 contest, and so many ICS cooks declined to travel to regional competitions like ChiliFest.

“We felt that with the increase in cases happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, we would feel terribly responsible if an outbreak happened due to ChiliFest in our community,” Smith said. “The safety of all our many participants, teams, vendors and public is foremost in our minds. We will be back bigger and better than ever in October of 2021 to support all our teams, festivalgoers and, most especially, the Ronald McDonald House of Huntington.”

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