Visitors at the 4th Annual Chile Pepper Festival left Saturday’s festivities with smiles on their faces and sweat on their brows.
Seventeen local restaurants and a variety of other local businesses set up outside Phoenix Public Market Café on Pierce and First streets. Some restaurants ran out of food halfway through the event. All proceeds from ticket sales went to Roosevelt Row CDC and Roosevelt Growhouse.
Vendors sold art and food among craft stations that were set up for kids, and visitors used tickets to vote for the best chile dish at the festival. There was a stage on Pierce street where live entertainment from local acts such as Trailer Queen and Flamenco Por la Vida took place. There were also team competitions with physical challenges and scavenger hunts.
The Vig, a first-time participant in the Chile Pepper Festival, ran out in about three hours, Corporate Chef Jorge Gomez said.
“The line never went down to 50 people,” he said. “It was insane. We had people come two, three times. Couple girls dropped like 16 tickets on us, and each chile was one ticket.”
Gomez explained that each of the chefs from the Vig’s four main locations collaboratively created a dish to offer at the festival. They served up stuffed peppers known as chile güeros, served both hot and cold with four different options. One of the choices was a pepper served cold, stuffed with an Ahi tuna salad. The other three were wrapped in bacon, with different meats such as chicken and ground beef inside.
Though hundreds of people gave The Vig their vote to win — more than six hundred people, by Gomez’s estimates — in the end, St. Francis won the People’s Choice Award of the Chile Pepper Festival 2015.
There was also an award for the Judge’s Choice, which went to Otro Café.
The last award, the Outstanding Contribution to the Community Award went to the mariachi band, Mariachi Luna de Mexico, who also performed last year in pouring rain.
First-time visitor Victor Olmos said he only tried drinks because the lines were so long. Despite not trying any chile dishes, he said he enjoyed himself, especially watching the performers at the festival.
“It was really good. I really enjoyed the Flamenco Por la Vida guys,” Olmos said. “I’m Spanish and they were really good.”
Last year, the festival area flooded as there was heavy rainfall that chased many visitors away from the event, three-time volunteer Sorvino Nguyen said.
She said things are different this year.
“It’s gotten a lot bigger,” Nguyen said. “I can tell because they’re selling out food … We’re wasting out of Groupons, we’re wasting out of food tickets, and vendors are running out of food.”
Despite restaurants running out of food, Sophie May Hook, special events manager for the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, said she received good feedback from the participating restaurants.
“They enjoyed themselves,” Hook said. “It was very organized, and there was no tornado this year, so I think that everybody was happy to be in the dry and not in a crazy storm.”
She said the goal is to have around 20 restaurants participating, but everyone is busy during the fall because it’s event season. She said Roosevelt Row CDC loves supporting local businesses.
“The hope is that with the new restaurants that they’ll have a good experience at the event as well and want to to come back again,” Hook said.
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