PUEBLO COUNTY — As we work to rebound from the pandemic, we want to spotlight big events that are happening despite the changes COVID-19 brings. This month the Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival is coming back. They’re doing it “Throwback Style” and bringing the event back to its roots, much smaller, and making it all about the farmers.
Rod Slyhoff, president of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, said the first fest had 4,000 people or so back when it started 26 years ago. And how it has changed!
“In a traditional year we have 184 street vendors, 48 food vendors, six big entertainment tents,” Slyhoff said.
But with limits on big events due to the pandemic, they are scaling things back this year. “We wanted to make sure we kept the tradition going, while so many things are being canceled,” Slyhoff said.
For the 2020 fest, they’ll have two locations with six roasters total on Sept. 26 and 27 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Union Avenue will be open for business so visitors can explore all that Pueblo has to offer. Each area will allow 175 people max and they’ll have to wear masks. There will be some food and entertainment while they wait for those chiles to be roasted. Folks will also have the option to order online and pick up the chiles.
Farms are also inviting folks out to visit them where the magic happens, like at DiTomaso Farms.
“They’ll be able to come to the farm and experience what it’s like, how it’s grown, how it’s picked,” manager Kasey Hund said.
Hund said keeping the fest going is important because it’s grown to be a big part of their bottom line.
“It’s a pretty big deal. I think it’s at least 50% of our yearly income. We really depend on it.”
The festival came about to celebrate all the flavors Pueblo has to offer including the frijoles which have been in high demand since COVID-19 arrived.
“The demand for pinto beans is about as big as I’ve ever seen it,” Tommy Rusler, manager of Rusler Produce said, “I think extended lockdowns and people seeing empty grocery store shelves really drove the point home to everyone how important it is to stock product like dried pinto beans in your pantry.”
Rusler said there are so many ways to cook them and they make a big impact, “They’re cheap. They’re high in protein. They’re high in fiber and you can feed your entire family for a year with just one bag.”
The Ruslers don’t have their own stand at the festival, rather they supply beans for the other growers. He said the frijoles are far from “forgotten” and as far as the festival overall they’re looking forward to the throwback fest and all it can offer in the age of COVID-19.
“I mean, it’s a million times better than having it canceled,” Rusler said.
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