SWANTON — There’s no telling if it was the chili, or community spirit, or both.

One thing’s for sure: meetings of local government are rarely as well attended as Swanton’s informational meeting Monday evening.

Around 40 residents filled the Swanton Village Municipal Complex. And while many arrived early to sample two tables’ worth of chili, everyone stayed to hear about the proposed town and village budgets from their respective government officials.

Several residents asked questions of not just those officials, but selectboard candidates as well, namely Karen Drennen, Mark Rocheleau and Heather Buczkowski. Each stood to introduce themselves and explain their reasons for running.

Officials seemed to appreciate the turnout.

Dan Billado, the town selectboard’s vice chair, opened the town’s portion of the meeting by noting, sincerely, “Nice to see a full room for a change.”

Neal Speer, the village president, opened the village portion of the meeting with a comparison to the oft-referenced municipal meetings of old, when attendance was not as slim as it’s become in recent years.

Last night’s meeting marked 20 years since Speer’s first election to the village board, he said. And Speer said the crowds then, and last night, were comparable.

Meanwhile, Swanton Arts Council members sat at the back of the meeting, conducting their second “Model Citizens” gathering, sketching the board members in pencil.

The meeting began at 7 p.m., but most of those in attendance arrived prior. The chili tables opened to the public, at no cost, around 5:30 p.m.

The Swanton Enhancement Project (SEP) sponsored the chili cookoff, based on an idea SEP member Molly Lambert attributed to village clerk Dianne Day and the community’s economic development coordinator, Elisabeth Nance.

Ashley Marchant took home the first prize, $100 in cash. Judy Paxman took second, and $50 in cash.

The Messenger summarized the town’s budget in our Feb. 22 edition.

We will publish a summary of the village budget prior to the village’s annual meeting.

A portion of the crowd in the village complex, listening to moderator Brian Savage.