The weather may have been a bit damp and dreary over the weekend, but for tens of thousands of people who attended the city’s annual Chile & Frijoles Festival downtown from Friday to Sunday, a little precipitation was not enough to rain on their parade.

The 23rd annual festival to celebrate Pueblo’s favorite crop – the infamous Mirasol chile pepper – took over the Downtown area for the better part of the weekend as people traveled from all across the state to enjoy the food, fun and atmosphere while securing their share of the annual chile harvest.

“It wasn’t our best weather year,” said Pueblo Chamber of Commerce President Rod Slyhoff Sunday. “It was cold and not sunny, but we still had great crowds. People are enjoying themselves, and I think that’s a sure sign that this is a tradition after 23 years. People come out because of the great entertainment, the chiles and the great vendors, so it was still a good year.

“I’m sure when we get (the numbers) all tallied, we’re going to be down because of (the weather), but you can’t have great weather every year or every weekend, so it’s just one of those things.”
Local Mexican restaurant owner Tony Terrones, who operates Mi Ranchito II and has set up a food stand at the festival for each of the past 10 years, said the weather definitely put a small damper on business, but the majority of chile lovers seemed to brave the drizzly conditions for the festivities.

“In this general location we get people a little bit later in the day once they start coming to the tents, but once it started raining they kind of dispersed,” Terrones said. “It still wasn’t terrible. Even with the rain people were out, so the numbers are down this year but I believe it’s probably just because of the weather. But Mother Nature is what it is, ya know?

The festival kicked off its three-day run on Friday and was expected to bring about 100,000 visitors to Pueblo to enjoy its traditional staples of farmers markets, carnival food, chili and salsa showdowns, a jalapeño eating contest and live music from more than 40 local artists and bands.

The festival is a huge draw for Pueblo, not just for the city’s economy, but also for the chile harvesters themselves, as local farmers reportedly sold more than $50,000 of peppers during the 2016 festival alone.

And although the festival staples of dining, shopping and live entertainment were once again gigantic draws for the festival as they are each year, Slyhoff said the most talked about fixture of this year’s event wasn’t the festivities, but the chiles themselves.

“We’ve had a lot of comments about the chile crop,” Slyhoff said. “The chiles are just marvelous this year. They’re bigger and they’re meatier, so a lot of people have been talking.”

Original Article: Pueblo Chieftain

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