Saturday the streets of downtown Phoenix will be filled with melding tastes, smells and sounds celebrating a prominent piece of Southwest culture: the chile pepper.
The first annual Roosevelt Row Chile Pepper Festival hosted by Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation will include live music, on-site chile roasting, and dozens of local restaurants and chile experts sharing their love for peppers and everything the unique vegetable can do.
About 15 local restaurants will be participating in the festival, including Barrio Cafe, Carly’s Bistro and Burgers Amore. Entertainment will include local music acts such as Bears of Manitou, Pick and Holler and more. The festival will be hosted by Tammie Brown from the television show RuPaul’s All-Stars Drag Race, and will include the crowning of a Chile Pepper Queen.
“(Chiles) are just the taste of the Southwest,” said Eddie Castillo, owner and Food Crafter at AZ Food Crafters. “It’s part of the way people developed here. With the influence of Latin culture in the Southwest it was just natural. People who seek that out come here.”
AZ Food Crafters will feature its green chile pork empanadas at the festival, one of its top selling items.
Crooked Sky Farms, a local farm located just outside of Phoenix, will host the on-site chile roasting. Products from Anaheim peppers to fresh jalepeños will be offered at the event, all grown at Crooked Sky Farms pesticide-free. Crooked Sky Farms currently grow their chiles in fields in Duncan, Ariz.
“Arizonans know about chiles,” said Crooked Sky Farms representative Jennifer Woods. “[The festival] is a creative way for the community to come together.”
Roosevelt Row CDC is dedicated to creating a district celebrating culture in downtown Phoenix, hosting First Fridays and other events aimed at bringing the community together through art and culture. The Chile Pepper Festival epitomizes these initiatives, said Carla Wade Logan, owner of Carly’s Bistro and a Roosevelt Row CDC board member.
“The chile pepper is so indicative of the Southwest,” Wade said. “I think it is a great way for the various restaurants to network and connect to the community and also for the agriculture community to connect with the residents of the area.”
Logan drafted the initial idea for the Chile Pepper Festival and has been working with a committee at Roosevelt Row CDC to organize the event.
Aaron Johnson, owner of Lawn Gnome Publishing, emphasized the chile’s cultural significance in Arizona.
“With our Native American populations that are around here, there are a lot of unique green chile recipes that only exist in Arizona,” Johnson said.
The independent bookstore in downtown Phoenix will be printing a book full of chile recipes, chile-themed haikus and chile comics to be sold at the festival. The $5 book will benefit Lawn Gnome and Roosevelt Row CDC.
“It’s perfect that we’re allowing (the Chile Pepper Festival) to happen,” Johnson said. “That people are coming to share their recipes and stuff, especially being that we’re so close to Albuquerque which is where hatch green chiles are from.”
“People are excited about this,” he continued. “Green chile is woven into our culture. Food is how our families gather, how culture is created, and there is no way it’s going to fail. It’s part of the Southwest.
The Roosevelt Row Chile Pepper Festival will be held from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. at A.R.T.S. Project #1 near Roosevelt and Fifth streets. Admission for the festival is $10 in advance online and $15 at the gate.
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