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Spotlight: Chile, cheese and pecans

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Roswell Daily Record Archive Photo The Chile Cheese Festival offers a wide variety of entertainment and vendors, celebrating Chaves County's agricultural industry.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The annual Chile Cheese Festival returns to the Chaves County Courthouse

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

The annual Chile Cheese Festival is organized by MainStreet Roswell and celebrates Chaves County’s agricultural achievements by farmers, ranchers and growers.

Molly Boyles, vice president of MainStreet Roswell, said that, this year, the festival will offer more than ever, including that some of the vendors on Saturday morning’s farmers market will join. They will have their booths up on Friday, Sept. 24, at noon when the festival opens and will remain on Saturday when the festival continues at 10 a.m.

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Boyles said that the event returns to the Chaves County Courthouse lawn, not only as a community gathering, but also as a way for downtown merchants to draw in additional clientele.

Fun and entertainment for the entire family are a big part of the festival. Another aspect is providing the public with a personal understanding of the importance and diversity of Chaves County produce.

“One of our big goals for this event is to educate people about agriculture in general,” Boyles said. “The milk doesn’t automatically turn into cheese. There’s a process it takes to get it from the cow to the cheese product. We have the alfalfa growers and corn growers that are feeding the cows; the cows produce the milk; then we have the truckers getting it over to Leprino; and Leprino turns it into cheese and is shipping it all across the nation.”

The Leprino Food Co. plant usually opens its doors to visitors once a year during the Chile Cheese Festival. However, due to the pandemic, the regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has mandated that the plant remain closed to the public. According to Boyles, representatives of Leprino will be having a booth at the festival to hand out samples of their mozzarella cheese, which gets sent all over the U.S. and to more than 40 countries worldwide.

“Then the green chile,” Boyles said, “we have so many farmers in the county that are producing fantastic green chiles. And this year, I talked to a couple of people, the home growers, and they are saying the chiles are turning out fantastic this year. They are very flavorful, and both the mild and hot varieties are coming off in great numbers.

“The last time I talked to one of the people out at Graves (Graves Farm & Garden), that was several weeks ago, they said they have a really nice crop coming up, too.”

Graves Farm & Garden will have their large chile roasters at the festival, with their new chile harvest. They also will donate chile 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 is still accepting entries from individual cooks, professional restaurant chefs and hobby cooks. Previous winners have been private competitors and, once, a food truck cook. Boyles said that MainStreet Roswell’s webpage will have a link to the applications.

New this year is a pecan pie contest.

“We are wanting to celebrate our pecan growers,” Boyles said. “It has become such a large industry here in southeastern New Mexico and Roswell, specifically in Chaves County. If you’ve got family members that are great bakers that want to enter in that competition, we’ll be taking entries on that, too. There will be cash prizes. We are still waiting to determine what the exact amounts will be, but there will be cash prizes for the top three for both the Green Chile Stew Competition, which also has a traveling trophy with it, and … for the Pecan Pie Competition.”

Boyles said that the popular ice cream contest will take place as well. The contest is limited to 10 participants. “Within three minutes, the one who ends up with the most (empty) ice cream cups gets a small prize,” she said.

There also will be a “Kids’ corner,” where children can do craft projects and play games. Also planned is a downtown scavenger hunt.

Asked how many and what kind of food trucks have signed up so far, Boyles said, “We are up to five. At this time, we have Mexican food, sweet snacks and sandwiches. Eli’s Bistro has recently set up a truck. And I just got a call on Friday — barbecue. It will be a pretty good variety. It will not be all the same things. And that is what we are looking forward to, being able to provide and bring out vendors that can satisfy the tastebuds of everybody.”

 

Boyles said that booths are still available. “If there are nonprofit organizations out there who are interested in giving out information to the public, this is a fantastic opportunity because our nonprofit organizations can get a booth for a very low fee,” Boyles said.

What would be a festival without music? Many artists are looking forward to performing at the festival. Marie Manning is the music coordinator for MainStreet Roswell.

One of the artists performing is award-winning singer and songwriter Zephaniah Stringfield. Stringfield is the winner of the 2021 New Mexico Music Awards in Bluegrass category for his song “Logan Harvey.”

In a phone interview, Stringfield said that he had traveled through Roswell, but never had the chance to stop and spend time.

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 first songs and bought me an electric guitar. I got into rock ’n’ roll and playing electric guitar, and then, when I was about 16, I got an acoustic guitar and started to play everywhere. I played in parks, at gatherings, playing songs together. And then about eight years ago, I moved out to Taos, New Mexico, and met up with some bluegrass players and started to go to a bluegrass jam every week, getting involved with the folk and bluegrass scene. All the time, I was writing my own songs and was writing more bluegrass, country and folk songs and started performing more.”

Stringfield said that Taos struck a chord with him. After having lived in large cities, he enjoyed the small community there. “Everyone liked to play together and it wasn’t so competitive,” he said. “It’s a lot more of sharing art and creativity.”

Asked about his performance at the Chile Cheese Festival, Stringfield said, “I just released an album in June. I spent about a year working on with Peter Oviatt, who is coming with me to Roswell. He plays banjo and upright bass, and he’s a great producer and has a recording studio in Taos. We worked together for a year and we performed together a lot.

“We’ll be playing some originals from that album and originals from my previous albums. I look forward to spending some time in Roswell and meeting people down there. And trying some chile cheese,” Stringfield said.

Another musician performing is Sam Barlow, who was featured in the Vision section when his new album, “Faith in The Blues,” was released last year. He has performed in Roswell before.

Asked how he heard about the festival, Barlow said, “It was a very fun event, the New Mexico Music Awards. I was nominated for two of the New Mexico Music Awards. One was for the best blues song and the other was for best rock album, and I just so happened to be sitting across the table from Marie (Manning). She contacted me and asked me to do the festival. I was extremely happy because Roswell is a real fun town to be in.

“I haven’t had 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 bit more time, but I figured, if you guys have me back, I’ll have the opportunity eventually,” Barlow said.

Asked about his performance at the Chile Cheese Festival, Barlow said, “I am bringing my favorite people with me, my go-to band. I am bringing 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 are also going to do a mix on my upcoming album.”

Barlow said that he considers himself a “green chile aficionado.”

“As a matter of fact, I made a pot of green chile stew literally yesterday,” he said. “As far as pecans, I love them. We used to record in a place called Tornillo, Texas, that was very famous for having pecans. So one of the funny things that would happen when we recorded, they would give us a big bag of pecans to take home.”

When he heard about the green chile stew and pecan pie contests Barlow said, “I think we’re going to have a good time eating food and playing the blues.”

Other artists performing are Jim Dixon, Matthew Palmer, Trinity Soul, Nova Rush, Lexy Rose, George’s Bindle Bag and Oscar Butler. The schedule of the musicians will be on MainStreet Roswell’s webpage as well.

For more information, visit mainstreetroswell.org.

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