Chile, chihuahuas and other things to check out at the Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival

Tracy Harmon
Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo's peppery prowess is set to propel chile lovers into a harvest celebration that shows off the Steel City's scrumptious side when the Chile & Frijoles Festival takes center stage Sept. 22-24.

The 29th annual festival celebrates the Pueblo Chile and local produce harvest, enticing festival goers with the spicy smell of fresh chiles being roasted along Union Avenue throughout the weekend. Festivities include a chili and salsa makers showdown, the hot air balloon festival, street vendors, live entertainment, a beer garden, the chihuahua parade and the fiery jalapeno eating contest.

The event also gives celebrants a chance to help veteran service organizations, as all bar tips raised during the weekend will be going to the United Way of Pueblo.

Pueblo chiles sit ripe and ready for sale at the Milberger Farms store on Wednesday, August 16, 2023.

"This festival started and continues because of the farmers," said Duane Nava, executive director for the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and Visit Pueblo, which is hosting the event. "The farmers are expecting a good crowd and a lot of good smells of chile roasting and lots of other produce."

Here's everything you need to know about this year's festival.

Chili & Salsa Showdown

Judges will determine the best green chile, red chile and salsa made with certified Pueblo green or red chiles in both the non-commercial and commercial rounds. Judging starts at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, at the Pueblo Convention Center, 320 Central Main St.

The Chili & Salsa Showdown will showcase the tastiest concoctions of both commercial and amatuer chefs Sept. 21 at the Pueblo Convention Center.

In-person registration and drop-offs for commercial entries take place from 8:30-9 a.m. The non-commercial round will begin at 1:15 p.m., with in-person registration and drop-off taking place from 12:30-1 p.m.

Rules and registration forms are available at pueblochilefestival.com/applications/chili-and-salsa-showdown/. An awards ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, at the El Pueblo Museum stage where cash prizes and gifts will be awarded to the top performers in each category. 

Pueblo Chile Balloon Fest

The Chile Ristra balloon soars over Pueblo during last years Pueblo Chile and Balloon Fest.

Hot air balloons will fill the sky at 6:45 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. The launch will take place at the fields at 24th and High streets, just east of the Langoni soccer fields.

Participants can walk amongst the balloons as they inflate, talk with the crews, and watch as they take flight. Food trucks will be on site "to handle your caffeine fix, morning donuts or breakfast burritos. Balloon Fest T-shirts will also be available for sale commemorating this great event for Pueblo," said Bret Verna, an organizer.

The giant Chile Ristra balloon will be back again this year, thanks to the sponsorship of the Pueblo County Commissioners, and it is one of 15 colorful balloons participating. The Riverwalk Glow, featuring inflated tethered balloons glowing during the evening, is set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday on the lawns across from Brue's Alehouse, just outside the main gate of the festival.

Balloon events are free and open to the public.

Festival vendors, entertainment and hours

Pueblo Chile roasting will be going on in full force Sept. 22-24 during the annual Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival along Union Avenue in downtown Pueblo. In this Chieftain file photo from 2017, Doroteo Sanchez bags bushels of chiles after roasting them at the Musso Farms stand.

Union Avenue in Downtown Pueblo will be lined with 200 street vendors. Four live entertainment stages will showcase local talent, plus there will be a beer garden and kids corner.

Fresh roasted Pueblo green chile can be found in the Rusler Produce Farmers Market on the corner of Grand Avenue and Union Street in front of El Pueblo History Museum. 

Hours are 3 p.m.-midnight on Friday, Sept. 22, 10 a.m.-midnight on Saturday, Sept. 23, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24. Admission costs $6 per adult at the festival or $5 for those who take advantage of the early bird special online at pueblochilefestival.com. Military members with a valid ID and children younger than 12 are admitted free. 

Baby Girl, the long haired Chihuahua, is queen of the chiles as her owner Shawntel Martinez holds her at the Milberger Farms booth during the 2020 Chile and Frijoles Festival.

Chihuahua and Friends Parade

Chihuahua parents ages 18 and older are invited to dress up their pooches and participate in the parade at the Farmer's Market in front of El Pueblo History Museum at 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 24.

Advance registration is $7 at pueblochilefestival.com. Event day registration costs $10 and starts at 10:30 a.m.

Owners should remember to bring poo bags, as they are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs.

Jalapeno Eating Contest

The jalapeno eating contest will wrap up festivities from 4-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, at the Black Hills Entertainment Tent, at the corner of Main Street and Alan Hamel Avenue. Those who dare to try to down as many of the fiery peppers as possible can register at the event.

Spectators walk the length of Union Ave. in downtown Pueblo during the 28th Annual Chile and Frijoles Festival on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

Where to park for the festival and other things to know before you go

Here are some other important things to know before you attend the 2023 Pueblo Chile & Frijoles festival, according to event organizers.

  • All parking is free, and there are three parking garages Downtown.
  • In addition to the parking garages, there's a free, handicap-friendly shuttle going from from Midtown to Downtown. The shuttle will be running throughout each day of the festival.
  • The festival is 100% dog friendly, however, the Midtown shuttle will only accommodate service dogs.
  • The festival's merchandise booth will accept both cash and cards, but its bars will be cash only.
  • The kids corner will be located in the Angelo's parking lot.

More Pueblo Chile news:Pueblo chile, 'hearty & spicy,' feels Colorado's love: What to know about harvest season

Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at tharmon@chieftain.com or via X, formerly Twitter, at twitter.com/tracywumps. Support local news, subscribe to The Pueblo Chieftain at subscribe.chieftain.com.