The 51st Annual Hatch Chile Festival is taking place Labor Day weekend, September 1st – 3rd in Hatch, New Mexico and is expected to draw over 30,000 chile enthusiasts.
The Hatch Chile Festival was started in 1971 to celebrate the annual chile harvest from the Hatch Valley fields. 1,500 people attended in 1971. Today, more than 30,000 people travel to Hatch to participate in the fun activities planned for the weekend.
When the festival first began, chiles weren’t as widely known as they are today. With the proliferation of Southwestern cuisine across the United States, the demand for chiles rose with it.
Hatch proudly calls itself “The Chile Capital of the World” for good reason. Chile growers claim the soil and intense New Mexican sunshine create perfect growing conditions.
Connection to the land
Hatch Valley’s original crops were cotton and wheat until the now legendary Franzoy family settled in Hatch in 1917.
They were the first to take their produce directly to sellers, and several generations later, some of their descendants still grow green chiles.
It is a testament to the tenacity and ingenuity of the farmers of the region that they not only found a new cash crop but also created a whole market and cachet to the uniqueness of the soil chiles are grown in and the special climate of New Mexico that allows them to grow so well and be packed with so much flavor.
Things to do at the Chile Festival
The Hatch Chamber of Commerce has published a list of events for the three days. Everything starts at 4 p.m. on Friday at Icebox Brewery where bands will be performing before the official kickoff on Saturday.
The Parade officially launches the festival at 9 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the Carnival full of family friendly rides, events, contests and performers.
Chile and watermelon eating contest & Chile Queen Auction
On Saturday at 2 p.m. there will be chile and watermelon eating contests, followed by the Chile Queen Auction.
Chile for sale
The highlight of the weekend is, of course, the chiles. Everywhere people go during the Chile Festival they will be treated to the unique aroma of Chiles roasting.
Chile farmers will be everywhere at the Chile Festival offering their chiles for sale.
Chiles are usually sold in large, forty-pound sacks. Experienced chile lovers bring their chiles home, put them in bags and freeze them for use throughout the year.
Only chile peppers grown in Hatch Valley are allowed to be called “Hatch Chile Peppers,” and the pride is evident throughout the town.
The Hatch Chile Festival turns a normally sleepy, small town into a bustling city of fun, shopping and fun for the entire weekend.