PUEBLO COUNTY, Colorado — There is no need to wait until September to enjoy fresh roasted Pueblo Chiles. Many farmers on the St. Charles Mesa began roasting their peppers earlier this summer and have plenty to spare.
"We've had a really good chile harvest. I think this is probably one of our best chile harvests in like the last 10 years," said Kasey Hund, manager of DiTomaso Farms.
Weather conditions were optimal this year with the rain stopping at just the right time to allow the pepper plants to grow.
Ordinarily, the best time to sell the chiles would be during the annual Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival which routinely attracts crowds of more than 100,000 during the event. But public health restrictions won't allow such a big gathering next month.
Donielle Kitzman, Vice President of the Visit Pueblo and Convention & Visitors Bureau explained that this year's festival will be scaled down with two farmer's markets set up in fenced-off areas. One will be located in the parking lot next to the Senior Resource Development Agency. The other, in front of the Hotel Vail.
"We can only allow 175 people in at any given time," Kitzman said.
Event workers will count heads and allow new guests inside as others leave. There will still be live entertainment and a limited number of food and beverage vendors to visit. Union Avenue will remain open during the event with the hope that festival-goers will visit the merchants in the area.
Kitzman still expects to have to turn away several people. So, the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce has launched a curbside service where customers can order their chiles online and pick them up to-go.
"If the festival area is full, we're going to be on-site to provide people with the farm stand maps to head out buy peppers and whatever fresh produce they desire locally," Kitzman added.
Hund, at DiTomaso Farms, said the weekend of the chile fest is typically one of their busiest times of the year at the farm stand. She's preparing for the surge of customers by holding a mini-festival on the farm. Food trucks and craft vendors will set up shop on their land to help feed hungry customers as they wait for their chiles to finish roasting.
"I wanted to give people the option who come from out of town to come from the farm to get their chile and see how it happens and how we bring it in and how we pick it," Hund said. "It'll give them something else to look at besides chile."
She's contacted the health department and plans to follow all the recommended safety guidelines like requiring masks and encouraging customers to keep six feet of separation between themselves.