PUEBLO, Colorado — It's a Southern Colorado tradition. Each September, hoards of people flocks to downtown Pueblo to enjoy live music and cold drinks while feeling the heat from dozens of propane-powered chile roasters cooking up freshly picked peppers by the bushel.
But this year's Pueblo and Chile and Frijoles Festival will be smaller than usual. Precautions against COVID-19 have limited attendance at the two roasting areas to a maximum of 175 people at a time. Guests will have their temperatures screened as they enter the event.
"It's not coming close to the 140,000 to 160,000 people we're used to," said Joey Musso.
His family has grown Mirasol Pueblo Chiles on their farm in the St. Charles Mesa for generations. The business has been busier than usual this summer.
Yet, Musso wanted to find a way to bring roasted peppers to people who would normally attend the festival but have to stay home because they are in a high-risk group. So, he reached out to the Golden Gate Manor and City Cab companies to set up a chile delivery service.
"It gives people the opportunity to order their chiles and not worry about going around large crowds of people and worrying about getting infected," Musso explained.
Lawrence Perez, Human Resources Manager at Golden Gate Manor, said it was a no-brainer accept Musso's offer.
"As long as I can remember, the Chile and Frijole Festival has been something that our family has enjoyed, both the festivities as well as the actual crop itself," said Perez.
Around a dozen drivers from the two companies will be picking up orders from the Musso's roasting stand at the festival and delivering them to customers.
The service costs $10 for most addresses within the City of Pueblo. It increases to $15 and $17.50 for those who live farther out.
The Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the festival, is also encouraging the public to pre-order chiles on their e-commerce web-application. That way they'll be ready for curbside pick service on Saturday and Sunday.
Once the roasting areas reach a capacity crowd, festival staff will provide people with maps on where to find the farm stands for the members of the Pueblo Chile Growers Association. The idea is to limit the health risk by spreading out the usually large crowds across a geographic greater area.
Musso said his family will be operating roasters running at their farm stand on hillside drive and in the parking lot of the family restaurant on the US Hwy 50 bypass in addition to the festival site.
"This kind of just helps spread out people and people don't have to worry about such large crowds."
As News 5 has previously reported, other farmers are planning their own celebrations and festivities during the event.
To use the chile delivery service, call the Musso Chile Hotline at 719-565-8559.