The Hatch Chile Festival
A Visit to the Chile Capital of the World!

The Hatch Valley

Hatch is located in the fertile Rio Grande River valley. The abundant New Mexico sunshine and irrigation water from the Rio Grande River combine to produce lush crops of cotton, corn, vegetables, and of course, chile peppers. "Hatch Chile" is not actually a variety of pepper, but is a term used to describe peppers of several different varieties grown in the area. Actual variety names might include "Big Jim", "Joe Parker", "Sandia", and others. Green Chile is King at the beginning of the season, made into rellenos, enchiladas and stews. Later, the peppers ripen and turn red and are dried to be made into that delicious red chile sauce that flavors a multitude of dishes that will keep you warm all winter!
Hatch NM
Hatch is about 40 miles North of Las Cruces, up Interstate 25, or about 2 hours South of Albuquerque. If you're arriving early, the traffic may be heavy along the main street into town, in anticipation of the Festival parade, which usually takes place about 10 a.m. on Saturday. If it's your first visit to Hatch you may be surprised at how small a town it really is - only about 2,000 residents...except on Labor Day weekend!
Hatch Festival Parade
Everything in the village is about chile this weekend. In years past, most of the chile vendors sold their wares at the Festival, but recently, whether due to festival fees or regulations, many have chosen to stay in town and sell their chile. As a result, the town scene is quite lively, with numerous shops also offering chile-related souvenirs as well as chile powders and other items of interest.
Hatch Festival Parade
After the parade there's usually a traffic jam getting out of town heading for the festival grounds, a couple of miles away, so it's a good opportunity to walk around, check out the vendors, and smell some green chiles roasting, just to whet your appetite!
Hatch Chile Festival
Admission to the Festival is $20 per
carload, good for both days.  Bring sunscreen and a hat. It's not a "walk around with a beer" event, although they do have a "beer garden" if you care to sit in a cage to have a beer. (We recommend one of the cool refreshing Agua Fresca drinks which are always on hand.) 
As you enter the Festival grounds, you will immediately smell that unique aroma of roasting green chile. The roasters go non-stop all day.  Most vendors will let you taste their chile before buying.  Some offer either "Hot", Mild", or "Medium" heat, but tasting is really the only way to tell what you are getting, and even then, sometimes peppers in the same bag have varying heat.   
Chile Roaster at Hatch
Hatch Chile Festival
Green chile prices are pretty much fixed for all the vendors at the Festival.
If you like to haggle , consider buying your chile back in town, where the vendors are a little more open to bargaining. Also, in recent years fewer vendors have set up at the Festival, so some years there's a better selection of chile back in town.
Hatch Chile Festival
Continue your walk around the grounds, take in the arts and crafts, then check out the food vendors and decide what looks chile cheeseburgers, gorditas,enchiladas, burritos, etc. etc. Food lines are probably getting pretty long by now, so you may want to stake out a place in line at the booth of your choice. Sometimes the vendors have a little trouble keeping up, so be patient. If the kids get bored, there's a carnival with a few rides and games.
Inside in the shade, by now this year's Chile Queen may have been crowned, there's more arts and crafts, and a sit-down dining area and beer garden. Local artists display their works, this year's Festival T-shirt is on sale, and the day's entertainment lineup may already be underway. While there is a published schedule of acts and events, it's pretty flexible and always subject to change. The Festival goes on for both days of the Labor Day weekend.
Hatch Chile Festival
Usually there are local Mariachi and Ballet Folklorico dance groups, and a Western band. Between acts there are some Fun and Games activities like a Chile Toss and Chile Eating Contest.
Seating usually fills up fast, and a lot of folks will spend all afternoon in the shade of the barn watching the entertainment. We like to sit a while, but generally are drawn back outdoors to where the" Chile Action" is! It's time to select whatever we plan to buy.
Hatch Green Chile
Hatch Red Chile
Green chile is normally sold in 30-40 pound burlap bags. If you live nearby, you'll probably want to get them roasted. We take our roasted peppers home,separate them into small bags and freeze them right away. (Small lots of green chile can be roasted at home, go HERE for instructions.)
Red chile is available either as a Ristra of fresh peppers, or as fully dried pods. If you buy a fresh ristra to use in cooking, take it home and hang it in a dry location until the pods are fully dried. There are some recipes using fresh red pods, but the rich flavor of red chile doesn't really develop until the peppers are dried. If you are new to cooking with dried chile, go HERE for instructions on how to proceed.

Go HEREfor the official Festival website.