Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Annual Chilean Cheese Festival returns to Chaves County Courthouse
By Christina Stock
The annual Chili Cheese Festival is hosted by MainStreet Roswell and celebrates the agricultural achievements of Chaves County by farmers, ranchers and producers.
Molly Boyles, Vice President of MainStreet Roswell, said this year the festival will offer more than ever, including some of the vendors from the Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market joining them. They will have their kiosks on Friday September 24 at noon when the festival opens and will remain so on Saturday at 10 am.
Support local journalism
Subscribe to the Roswell Daily Record today.
Boyles said the event returns to the Chaves County Courthouse lawn, not only as a community gathering, but also as a way for downtown merchants to attract additional business.
Fun and entertainment for the whole family is a big part of the festival. Another aspect is to provide the public with a personal understanding of the importance and diversity of Chaves County products.
“One of our big goals for this event is to educate people about farming in general,” Boyles said. “Milk doesn’t automatically turn into cheese. It takes a process to get it from cow to cheese product. We have the alfalfa growers and the corn growers feeding the cows; cows produce milk; then we have the truckers bringing it to Leprino; and Leprino turns it into cheese and ships it across the country.
The Leprino Food Co. factory usually opens its doors to visitors once a year during the Chili Cheese Festival. However, due to the pandemic, the US Department of Labor’s regulatory agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has demanded that the plant remain closed to the public. According to Boyles, Leprino representatives will have a booth at the festival to hand out samples of their mozzarella cheese, which is shipped all over the United States and to more than 40 countries around the world.
“Then the green chili,” Boyles said, “we have so many farmers in the county that are producing some fantastic green chili peppers. And this year I spoke to a few people, the local producers, and they said the chilies were fantastic this year. They are very tasty, and the sweet and hot varieties are coming out in large numbers.
“The last time I spoke to one of the people at Graves (Graves Farm & Garden) was several weeks ago, they told me they also had a great harvest coming up. “
Graves Farm & Garden will have their major chili roasters at the festival, along with their new crop of chili. They will also donate the chili to the winners of the Green Chile Stew contest on Saturday.
The Green Chile Stew Best of the Southwest competition is sponsored by the Roswell Daily Record and always accepts entries from individual cooks, professional restaurant chefs and home cooks. Previous winners have been private competitors and, once, a food truck cook. Boyles said MainStreet Roswell’s web page will contain a link to the apps.
New this year is a pecan pie contest.
“We want to celebrate our pecan growers,” Boyles said. “It has become such a big industry here in Southeast New Mexico and in Roswell, particularly in Chaves County. If you have family members who are excellent bakers and want to participate in this competition, we will also take entries in that. There will be cash prizes. We’re still waiting to see what the exact amounts will be, but there will be cash prizes for the top three for both the Green Chile Stew contest, which also includes a traveling trophy, and… for the Pecan Pie contest.
Boyles said the popular ice cream contest will also take place. The competition is limited to 10 participants. “In three minutes, whoever ends up with the most (empty) ice cream cups gets a small prize,” she said.
There will also be a ‘kids corner’, where children can do craft projects and play games. A downtown treasure hunt is also planned.
When asked how many and what type of food trucks have signed up so far, Boyles replied, “There are up to five of us. Right now we have Mexican food, sweet snacks, and sandwiches. Eli’s Bistro recently installed a truck. And I just got a call on Friday – barbecue. It will be a pretty good strain. It won’t all be the same. And that’s what we look forward to, being able to supply and nurture vendors who can satisfy everyone’s taste buds. “
Boyles said the cabins are still available. “If there are nonprofits out there that want to get information out to the public, this is a fantastic opportunity because our nonprofits can get a booth for a very low price,” Boyles said.
What would a festival be without music? Many artists are eager to perform at the festival. Marie Manning is the Music Coordinator for MainStreet Roswell.
One of the performers is award-winning singer and songwriter Zephaniah Stringfield. Stringfield is the winner of the 2021 New Mexico Music Awards in the Bluegrass category for his song “Logan Harvey”.
In a phone interview, Stringfield said he traveled to Roswell, but never had the chance to stop and hang out.
When asked how he became an artist, Stringfield said, “I grew up in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area and my dad played music. He played guitar and sang folk songs, Bob Dillon and Neil Young. He taught me my first chords and songs and bought me an electric guitar. I got into rock ‘n’ roll and electric guitar, then around the age of 16 I got an acoustic guitar and started playing everywhere. I played in parks, at gatherings, playing songs together. And then about eight years ago I moved to Taos, New Mexico, and met some bluegrass players and started going to a bluegrass jam every week, getting involved in the scene. folk and bluegrass. The whole time I was writing my own songs and writing more bluegrass, country, and folk songs and started playing more.
Stringfield said Taos struck a chord with him. After living in big cities, he appreciated the small community there. “Everyone liked to play together and it wasn’t that competitive,” he said. “It’s much more a sharing of art and creativity. “
Asked about his performance at the Chili Cheese Festival, Stringfield said, “I just released an album in June. I spent about a year working with Peter Oviatt, who accompanies me to Roswell. He plays banjo and double bass, and he’s a great producer and he has a recording studio in Taos. We worked together for a year and we played a lot together.
“We’ll be playing originals from this album and originals from my previous albums. I can’t wait to spend time in Roswell and meet people there. And try some chili cheese, ”Stringfield said.
Another musician on stage is Sam Barlow, who was featured in the Vision section when his new album, “Faith in The Blues” was released last year. He once played at Roswell.
When asked how he heard about the festival, Barlow said, “It was a really fun event, the New Mexico Music Awards. I was nominated for two of the New Mexico Music Awards. One was for best blues song and the other for best rock album, and I was just sitting across from Marie (Manning). She contacted me and asked me to do the festival. I was extremely happy because Roswell is such a fun city.
“I didn’t have enough time to really explore the shops with the aliens, because I love that stuff. I would love to be able to spend a little more time, but I figured if you took me back eventually, I would get the chance, ”said Barlow.
Asked about his performance at the Chili Cheese Festival, Barlow said, “I take my favorite people with me, my favorite band. I bring Dave Hamilton and Joe Seltzer. We’re going to do a mix of songs from my nominated album, “Faith in the Blues”. And then we’re also going to do a mix on my next album.
Barlow said he considered himself a “green chili aficionado”.
“I actually made a pot of green chili stew literally yesterday,” he said. “As for the pecans, I love them. We used to record at a place called Tornillo, Texas which was very famous for having pecans. So one of the fun things that would happen when we were recording they would give us a big bag of pecans to take home. “
When he heard about the green chili stew and pecan pie contests, Barlow said, “I think we’re going to have a great time eating and playing the blues.”
Other artists present are Jim Dixon, Matthew Palmer, Trinity Soul, Novah Rush, Lexy Rose, George’s Bindle Bag and Oscar Butler. The schedule of musicians will also be on the MainStreet Roswell webpage.
For more information, visit mainstreetroswell.org.