Inspiring resilience and faith for better days amid a global pandemic is the intention of the 2020 Chile & Frijoles Throwback Fest.
This marks the festival’s 26th anniversary, and as with everything else – it has undergone changes, overcoming the obstacles necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, the festival is being held on two separate blocks in downtown Pueblo. One entrance is in the SRDA parking lot off Grand Avenue. The other is located in front of the Vail Hotel on Union Avenue. Each area is permitted 175 people as a maximum capacity.
Despite the limited capacity, there were lines at both entrances Saturday afternoon.
Ava Deherrera, event coordinator for the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, has been a part of the festival for the last 21 years and said that as compared to years past, the crowd present at the festival this year was under an eighth of what is considered normal.
“If you were here last year, you couldn’t even walk the streets without bumping into someone,” Deherrera said. “There were hundreds of people here.”
Deherrera noted the limited capacity had not affected sales.
“When people first come in, they do see us,” Deherrera said. “This is the first year we have had two booths, so we have merchandise everywhere for sale. But we are selling!”
Deherrera hopes for the remainder of the weekend, people will continue to visit the festival to support the farmers, other booths present, and surrounding businesses in the area.
“I’m hoping we can move people in and out, and get the line down,” Deherrera said. “We truly want people to come in, get what they need, have a drink, listen to a song, get their chiles, get their merchandise. Then go down Union Avenue and patronize some of our businesses.”
For patron Shawntel Martinez, coming to the festival was about buying one of Pueblo’s staple food items for her mother. Along with her was her dog, “Baby Girl” who took part in all the festival had to offer.
“This is a lot smaller than it was before,” Martinez said. “We thought it would be a little bit bigger.”
Kassandra Cortes, an ambassador for the chamber, said while she doesn’t have any expectations for the remainder of the festival, she knows that once the festival can return without the limitations the coronavirus pandemic has caused – the festival will be better than ever.
“So far, my experience (working the festival this year) has been good,” Cortes said. “As far as the chile festival goes – with all of us putting this together we were just hoping there wouldn’t be another rise (in coronavirus cases) so that we wouldn’t have to cancel.
“The local farmers really depend on us; I mean this is what Pueblo is. So, if it wasn’t for them and us being able to do this – it would hurt everyone. But so far so good! Once the pandemic is over, hopefully next year it will be a lot better!”
Chieftain reporter Alexis Smith can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @smith_alexis27. Help support local journalism with a subscription to the Chieftain at chieftain.com/subscribenow.