When locals say, “Fall is in the air,” it means something completely different than anywhere else in the country. It means the air is saturated with the roasting of green chile, temperatures are cooler, it’s time for outdoor activities and of course the annual Chile Cheese Festival.
This year, the festival takes place on Sept. 28 and 29, downtown on the Chaves County Courthouse lawn.
Dusty Huckabee had been one of the first organizers reviving downtown Roswell and starting the Chile Cheese Festival. It was a way for families to learn about the industry, which is the lifeblood of Chaves County since the days of John Chisum. The festival started as a thank you for the farmers and ranchers of the Pecos Valley and the county’s largest employer, the Leprino Cheese Plant.
Today, MainStreet Roswell along with support from the city and many volunteers, organizes the 27th annual Chile Cheese Festival.
Molly Boyles, president, MainStreet Roswell board of directors, said that she is excited about this year’s festivities, which includes new events and more entertainment.
One of the highlights is the tour of the Leprino Plant, which opens its doors only once a year for the public.
“We are super excited,” Boyles said. “We have air-conditioned coach buses with 57 seats.
It is going to seat more people, so we will have only two tour times — one that takes off at 9:45 a.m. and one at 12:45 p.m. Those are leaving times, we’re going to load them at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. at the Roswell Visitor’s Center (the tours take place on Saturday).”
The bus belongs to a new company in Roswell — Enchanted Tours. “We want to help get the word out about their new bus. They have a smaller shuttle that seats 12, as well,” Boyles said.
“You will be immersed into an experience much like the “How It Is Made” TV series with this amazing inside look at the process of turning our local milk into mozzarella cheese, which is shipped all over the world. Leprino Foods is the largest private employer in Chaves County and has been in Roswell for almost three decades providing a huge economic boost for our area,” Boyles said.
“I would love to see groups of kids, especially those that have an interest in science and mathematics,” Boyles said. “I am actually hoping to get ahold of some schools and some of these kids involved in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program. There is so much math and science that goes on out there at Leprino and engineering because they have hundreds of pipes going every which direction. To make cheese is truly a science — it’s chemistry. You got the chemistry and the science of that and the mathematics of making sure how many pounds of milk you need to make how many pounds of cheese. Out there they don’t deal in gallons, they count in pounds. I think they get 130 or 140 trucks a day. Then there are different recipes for big customers, such as pizza companies.”
According to Boyles, Kristen Allen, who is Leprino’s human resource generalist, told her that if there is any group that involves STEM who would like a private tour, she would work with them. “She also can make sure it’s the right tour guides to get into the science and math and engineering side of the plant if that is specifically what they are looking for,” Boyles said.
Tickets for the tours of the Leprino Plant are available at the MainStreet Roswell office at 403 N. Richardson Ave. or by calling 575-914-8018, or at the Chile Cheese Festival Information booth on both days. There are specific clothing guidelines and security guidelines in place for those who want to go on the tour.
“Some of the other things we have going on are games, different arts and crafts projects,” Boyles said. “Runyan Ranch is going to be out there again. We have an ice cream-eating contest that’s free to enter; different crafts and games involving cows. Celebrate our local Southwest Dairy farmers with fun kids’ cow crafts and dairy-themed contests and drawings. Pick up a free goodie bag from Fair Life Milk —while supplies last. We have different “Did you know?” fliers, and we have the Roswell Daily Record Best of the Southwest Green Chile Stew Contest.”
The Roswell Daily Record stepped up to sponsor the contest this year. The award ceremony will be on the stage at 5 p.m. on Saturday. It was scheduled for last year’s festival, but due to heavy rain, couldn’t take place as planned.
“We do have a backup plan this year. Third Street Station’s Pavilion (401 E. Third St.), owned by Court Nichols — he has offered it if things go south for us (meaning heavy rain and/or lightning). We can move under there. We are still going to have a party,” Boyles said and laughed.
“As long as the rain doesn’t get too bad, we don’t have to move,” Boyles said. “Last year, it was a heck of a downpour. It hit really hard. When there is water standing on the lawn and we got those wires across, that’s not going to work — or there is lightning in the area that could damage the sound system. A small amount we can deal with.”
Marie Manning is in charge of the musical entertainment and has a variety of local musicians lined up for both days.
“We do also have local and regional music, some of the ones we had in the past,” Boyles said. “Brandon Bailey Johnson — he’s from Ruidoso — was very popular during the UFO Festival and Marie is singing.”
Friday’s music headliner is traditionally Hispanic with the award-winning band Nosotros performing.
Nosotros was formed in 1994 in Las Cruces. Randy Sanchez who was one of the three founders is still part of the band. Drummer Dennis Jasso joined in 2000.
In a phone interview, Jasso said, “In the years the band grew and got bigger, gained more members into a six-piece in 2000. We moved up to Albuquerque and Santa Fe because we were getting a lot of work up here at that time.”
According to Jasso, the band went through different phases, from being an all-instrumental guitar trio that had no vocals and was performing Spanish Flamenco music, to adding more styles during the years.
“It stayed with the Flamenco sound, even when I joined the band in the year 2000,” Jasso said. “Over the years — mainly by bringing in different musicians as some musicians were leaving — you got other musicians who brought in their influences. That has transformed the band.
“We’ve played in Chicago, we’ve played in San Jose, California, a couple of times at the jazz festival there. We’ve been to Austin. We’ve been definitely played many times outside of New Mexico. There is something magical in this region here and playing to your home crowd and your fellow citizens of the state,” Jasso said.
Just recently the band was awarded Best Video in 2018 at the New Mexico Music Awards. “That was for ‘En El Más Allá’ that we shot in Santa Fe for Dia de los Muertos,” Jasso said. “We also won Best Band in Santa Fe and Best Latin Band in Albuquerque as Editor’s Pick.”
Asked what the audience in Roswell can expect, Jasso said, “We will definitely include our original songs that our fans will recognize.
This will be a fun weekend for us because we will be going around New Mexico. After Roswell we’ll be going to Silver City and then perform in Las Cruces. It’s going to be nice for us for a good short tour of southern New Mexico. Things are going to open up in our schedule as we are getting closer to the holidays and we hope we can use the time to get back to the studio writing new material and hopefully releasing a new album next year.
“We always look forward to seeing new faces and meeting new people,” Jasso said. “I believe our music is enjoyed by all walks of life. The rhythm is contagious, so if you haven’t heard the band, I like to let people know to come out and see us and can expect to have a good time. Bring your dancing shoes and prepare to be on your feet and moving the whole time.”
Nosotros’ show starts on Friday at 8:30 p.m., weather permitting.
Saturday is country and western night with the Tylor Brandon Band performing.
“Their band just started in 2017, so it’s a new band, but they have been getting lots of accolades,” Boyles said.
In a phone interview, Brandon talked about his start in the industry and his band. “I was always singing along to the radio,” he said. “It was just something I enjoyed to do. I would like to imitate Elvis Presley. My grandpa would play it in his truck. Music was always something that was a big part of my everyday life and I would listen to it. I tried playing guitar in high school a little bit. My voice was going through some changes so I couldn’t sing very well.
Then, I went to karaoke with a buddy of mine and sang a song and people seemed to like it. It just rolled from there and I put guitar playing and singing together and started playing acoustically on a stool and got some attention that way and then trying to build a band basically — not knowing what I was doing at all — having never done this stuff before. I am still winging it to this day.
“It’s been really blessed and I am very thankful and grateful for the way that people have received me doing what I love for a living. It’s an awesome tune,” Brandon said.
The band went full in touring throughout New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Texas.
“Everything has changed pretty quickly since playing in town to playing outside of town, outside of state. It’s really just kind of movin’ along,” Brandon said.
Asked what his favorite part is of touring, Brandon said, “It’s meeting new people. I love that part in my job. This job allows me to travel and try new foods and meet new folks and learn about new cultures. It’s really a non-stop learning experience that never gets old. Every day is different and every day has something new to experience.
“My goal is to launch my first album by next summer. I am a bit of a perfectionist, I guess my band would say. I missed the boat on this this summer and I’m OK with that because I didn’t want to rush it. I am hoping that there will be an album by next summer.
Asked how Brandon would describe his style of music, he said, “I would like to think that no matter how old you are I will make you one moment of having something that you are connected to in some way. It’ll bring back memories, it’ll bring back good memories and make you feel something. And that is kind of what I want to get across. It’s a little bit of old, a little bit of new and my own twist on things, that’s what I ended up. There is something for everybody.
“I appreciate them having me in Roswell; I’ve never been to Roswell so it’ll be another new experience for me and I just appreciate having the opportunity,” Brandon said.
The Tylor Brandon Band will perform on Saturday at 8:30 p.m., weather permitting.
There will be a minimum of 29 vendors. “Last minute vendors will not be able to have a space,” Boyles said. “The fact is since the city has implemented that they have to have a city license, they can’t show up last minute unless they already have a city license. That makes it difficult. They have to have a CRS number (Combined Reporting System number) through the state of New Mexico to be able to sell anything in the city of Roswell.”
“Several games we had planned last year never happened because of the rain on Saturday,” Boyles said. “One of them is about Cow Tails candies. We are going to have a jar and the kids and adults can enter. They can guess how many are in there. Closest wins, if there is a tie, it’s going to be a coin toss.
“Runyan Ranch will be on the corner of Fourth and Main. Our food vendors will be lined up on Fifth Street and Graves Farm is going to bring their chile to roast,” Boyles said.
“We are super excited to have great sponsors again this year,” Boyles said. “We got a great number of people standing behind us and this festival. Our UFO Festival is fabulous and brings in a lot of people, but doesn’t celebrate our local economy to the extent this does. Our local economy is really driven very strongly by agriculture. Our UFO phenomenon has been a huge boom for this town but agriculture has been here a lot longer and Leprino is the largest employer in all of Chaves County. When you count all the employees that are related to Leprino because of hauling milk, making the milk, breeding those cows and producing the feed for these cows, the economic impact of the agriculture related to Leprino is huge and then you have our agriculture in addition to the feed of the dairy cattle, you got people producing food for our tables. You can’t beat homegrown or locally grown produce.
“I personally don’t want to buy stuff that came in from California, I’d much rather be buying the local produce. So I am excited that we still got a strong farming community in Roswell,” Boyles said.
The program schedule for the Chile Cheese Festival is available in the hardcopy of the Roswell Daily Record, Sept. 23.
For more information, visit mainstreetroswell.org and updates will be available on its Facebook page.