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R.I.P. Chew Chew

Side Dishes: Waterfront food festival ends after 24 years

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Rick Norcross may have planned and organized the Green Mountain Chew Chew Food & Music Festival for nearly a quarter century, but last Friday he experienced something new: A thunderstorm so severe that the Burlington Fire Department had to evacuate the venue. “It finished us on Friday night,” he said of the hail and lightning that rolled in just before dinnertime.

The inclement weather was bad news for the final edition of the festival, which posted a loss of $20,000 in 2008 and didn’t manage to bounce back. But, while 2009 alternated between Sturm und Drang and drizzle, it didn’t dampen people’s spirits. “We went out with a great festival in terms of having fun,” Norcross says. He notes that attendees enjoyed some great eats: “Skinny Pancake was very popular … The Lions Club from Swanton had some really good barbecue, baby back ribs and pulled pork.” His personal favorite? Perhaps Mazza’s strawberry shortcake made with just-picked berries.

Norcross denies rumors that Chew Chew will morph into a barbecue festival in ’10. “I hadn’t heard that,” he says. “I’m done with it, actually … I’m 64. I’m just one guy and a computer. I think it’s time to let younger heads, or mouths, prevail.”

Norcross plans to spend his newfound free time promoting his band, Rick and the Ramblers. “I originally started this thing to get a venue for my band to play that was out of the bars,” he recalls.

As “physically draining” as the festival was, Norcross says he always appreciated the support the city of Burlington offered to the hungry hordes he drew to town, and adds that he’ll miss the scene. “It gets to be a kind of family from doing it so long,” he says. “There’s a sense of community. People … have been coming for 20 years.”

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