Hatch Valley Chile Festival Ristra

Hatch Chile Festival 2020: A First Timer’s Guide

If you’ve ever eaten red or green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico, you surely appreciate the color, quality, taste, and heat of these delicious peppers. Hatch chiles can infuse almost any dish with the flavor of authentic Southwest cuisine. It’s no surprise that Hatch has become known as the Chile Capital of the World.

The Hatch Valley celebrates their magnificent chiles every September. We attended the Hatch Chile Festival in 2018. It was an experience filled with mouthwatering flavors, lots of fun, and just the right amount of heat. If you’re considering this event, here is your guide to the Hatch Valley Chile Festival.

Hatch Chile Festival 2020 Dates

This year’s Hatch Valley Chile Festival will take place September 5 & 6, 2020. The festival will again return to the Hatch Municipal Airport, one mile west of town on Highway 26. The cost will likely remain $20 per car load. I’ll update this post once that’s confirmed. But you can be sure that Hatch Chile Festival 2020 will feature fun rides, delicious food, and live entertainment!

About the Hatch Valley Chile Festival

The festival started in 1971 and is celebrated on Labor Day weekend. People come from around the world to enjoy the harvest of Hatch green chiles. The small town of Hatch only has a population of about 1,600, but the festival has drawn crowds numbering over 30,000.

The chile festival includes vendor booths selling various chile pepper items, including foods, arts, and crafts. There are also carnival rides for the kids. The Chile Roaster Garden includes booths from growers throughout the area.

How to Get to Hatch Chile Festival 2020

The village of Hatch is about 40 miles northeast of Las Cruces and 40 miles south of Truth or Consequences. Hatch is right off of I-26 so it’s easy to get there from the north or south. If you’re coming from Las Cruces, drive up Highway 185 and pass through many local farms and orchards.

Hatch Valley Chile Festival Sign
Signs directing you to the festival are plentiful

The festival takes place at the Hatch Municipal Airport on Highway 26, one mile west of town. Even though the event is at the airport, if you’re flying in to visit the festivities, you’re probably going to have to make a 1.5-hour drive from El Paso, TX.

Arriving at the Hatch Chile Festival

Prepare for the Hatch Chile Festival parade that usually takes place in Hatch at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Attend to see the decorated floats and trucks hauling the prize chiles. If you don’t want to attend the parade, making your way through town may be difficult as the parade route, added vehicles, and pedestrian traffic sometimes overwhelm the small village’s streets.

The Hatch Chile Festival hours start at 11 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Many visitors arrive early. After exiting the interstate, there are plenty of signs showing the way. The festival entrance is also well-marked.

In 2018, the cost was $20 per vehicle. It will likely be the same price for Hatch Chile Festival 2020. In 2018, the attendants placed a small sticker on our windshield and directed us into the parking area and into our spot. Even though we attended at the height of the festivities, there was ample parking, and we got into our spot quickly.

The Chile Roaster Garden

Hatch Valley Chile Festival Chile Roaster
Roasting Green Chiles

The Chile Roaster Garden is the main event! The chiles are sold in 30-40 pound burlap bags, ranging from mild to XXX Hot. Growers from the area are there preparing and roasting the green chile over open fires. They’re happy to let you sample their offerings and mix the various peppers to your liking before roasting them. They also have jarred salsas in a wide range of heat levels and flavors for purchase.

If you aren’t going to be able to freeze them later the same day, it’s best to buy them in the burlap bags. You will still need to freeze them as soon as possible to keep them from spoiling, but you’ll buy yourself a few days by keeping them uncooked.

Hatch Valley Chile Festival Ristras
Red Chile Ristras

Red chile is not the star at this event, but it is still available. You can buy red chiles either as a ristra or as dried pods. The rich flavor of red chiles doesn’t develop until dried, so be sure that they dry out before cooking with them.

What to Eat at the Festival

There are many different food options to choose while at the festival. Vendors are available with your typical carnival foods, hot dogs, sausages, funnel cakes, and the like. Some have Hatch chile options. When we attended in 2018, only a couple of quick-service food vendors had chile options. We found that a little disappointing.

We decided to get some food from the main kitchen and to sit down and enjoy a beer with some music. Nopalito’s Mexican Restaurant prepared the entrees. We ordered enchiladas and green chile sliders. The wait was very long, but they were well-prepared.

We were also pleasantly surprised to see a craft brewery serving up pints and pitchers of beer to provide relief from the heat of the day and the heat of the chiles. We sat at a table with another couple who had traveled to Hatch with their fifth wheel to fill it with green chiles to take back home to friends and family. Their RV probably smelled like chiles for weeks after that.

What to Do at the Hatch Chile Festival

The festival has a lot of exciting entertainment. Live music is performed throughout the day and ranges from country and western to Spanish mariachi to island tunes. Guests are welcome to dance on the large dance floor provided.

There are also eating contests many visitors take part in. The Chile Eating Contest is a popular event for those who have the stamina. The far less painful Watermelon Eating Contest lets the kids get in on the fun as they see how much of the local, sweet, juicy fruit they can eat.

Hatch Valley Chile Festival Ristra Workshop
Interactive Ristra Workshop

Other entertainment includes the Chile Queen Contest, where lovely señoritas compete to win. Hatch Chile Fest 2019 had a cornhole tournament on Sunday morning. Its popularity will likely ensure another in 2020. The Interactive Ristra Workshop provides instruction on how to tie beautiful chile creations. And you could even make your own ristra to take home! The Hatch Chile Festival hours end for the day around 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Where to Stay for Hatch Chile Festival 2020

Lodging options in Hatch Valley are limited. There are only a few options in Hatch if you want to be close to the festivities. Many who attend the festival will stay in Las Cruces or in Truth or Consequences which are about 45 minutes away. There are hotels and RV parks in both areas.

Airstream in Siesta RV Park Las Cruces
Siesta RV Park

Because it’s still the off-season for snowbirds, you shouldn’t have problem finding accommodations at an RV park. We stayed in our Airstream at the Siesta RV Park in Las Cruces. It’s not a fancy resort, but it’s tidy and is close to the historic district of Mesilla. There are restaurants, wineries, and breweries nearby.

Eating Outside the Festival

Since you’re attending the Hatch Chile Festival to celebrate a Southwestern food group, you’ll watch to try some of the dishes that incorporate these wonderful peppers. Your first stop is only several minutes away from the festival. It’s a unique, quirky, dining destination in the village of Hatch.

You Must Go to Sparky’s in Hatch, NM!

Sparky's Front
Sparky’s Entrance

Don’t eat too much at the festival because you’ll want to stop at Sparky’s. Don’t worry, you’ll get to spend some time standing in line to work off your appetite. We arrived at Sparky’s in the late afternoon and had to wait in line for a little over an hour. Yes, it was worth the wait.

Sparky’s does its best to keep you comfortable while waiting. There are misters and fans over the line. The staff also provides ice water to help cool you down. As a bonus, every 15 minutes or so an employee walks through the line with some appetizer items to share. Across the street on the corner in front of a local ice cream shop, an exciting, dancing duo consisting of Nintendo’s Mario and a Minion were showing off their dance moves.

Once inside, you order your meal. You’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this in line. It’s easy! Get the Green Chile Cheeseburger! This is why Sparky’s is world famous. It’s hard to beat this burger. They had live country music playing while we dined. There is a full pepper bar if you haven’t had enough capsaicin yet for the day.

Green Chile Cheeseburger

Dining in Las Cruces

Las Cruces offers some great dining options. Almost every menu in the town has a green chile option. The Luna Rossa Winery and Pizzeria has delicious pizzas and enjoyable red wines. There is also a good New Mexico craft beer selection. They have live music when we visited on Friday night.

The St. Clair Winery and Bistro also has great wines and sumptuous entrees. Many of the items are traditional Italian selections, but there are some unique options as well. This pricing at this restaurant is very reasonable.

La Posta de Mesilla is a favorite in the historic district. They serve up traditional Mexican fare and complement that with an exhaustive tequila list. The standard Mexican and Southwestern cocktails are nicely made.

If you like craft beer, you can’t go wrong in Las Cruces. The Spotted Dog, High Desert, and Bosque Brewing all serve up excellent brews. Little Toad Creek also has some good beer, but I actually preferred the liquors from their distillery over the beer. They had some interesting cocktails, including, of course, a couple of chile options.

I hope this guide to attending Hatch Chile Festival 2020 helps you when considering this event. It’s a wonderful celebration of the tastes, colors, and entertainment of the Southwest. If you’ve attended this event, please comment below what you enjoyed most!

Check out the Hatch Chile Fest Official Website and Hatch Chile Fest Facebook page for more information!

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