Chile, music and more at Mountain Chile Cha Cha Sept. 26

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Photo courtesy Jacque Aragon Santa Fe’s renowned Nacha Mendez Trio is set to hit the stage at this year’s 10th annual Mountain Chile Cha Cha at 1 p.m. on Sept. 26 in Town Park. After Nacha Mendez, local favorite Los Mitotitos will take the stage at 3 p.m.
Photo courtesy Jacque Aragon
Santa Fe’s renowned Nacha Mendez Trio is set to hit the stage at this year’s 10th annual Mountain Chile Cha Cha at 1 p.m. on Sept. 26 in Town Park. After Nacha Mendez, local favorite Los Mitotitos will take the stage at 3 p.m.

By Jacque Aragon
Special to The PREVIEW

Each year, the fall season arrives with shorter days, cooler nights and bushels of fresh roasted green chiles.

In Pagosa Springs, there is an annual green chile cook-off where chefs of all abilities and backgrounds compete for cash, trophies and bragging rights. This event, the Patty Aragon Green Chile Classic (PAGCC), was created to celebrate the green chile harvest and pay homage to a local green chile enthusiast who sated Pagosans’ green chile palettes for years with her tasty homemade recipe.

The mission of the PAGCC is to build community in the Pagosa Springs area while celebrating our cultural heritage through local cuisine and music.

Patty Aragon, along with her husband, former mayor Ross Aragon, owned and operated Al’s West and East from the 1970s until 1992. They served traditional American and southwestern cuisine and were most famous for their green chile, which they served straight up or atop burgers, fries and almost everything.

“My mother made the best green chile, hands down,” explained Jacque Aragon, who has organized the cook-off for the last seven years. “I’m proud to carry on the family tradition and love seeing other people get excited about making and eating green chile.”

Roughly 40 entrants, both amateur and professional, compete each year in the cook-off. Some cooks get creative; others go classic style. Without their generous contribution of time, effort and ingredients, this community event would not be possible.

The entry form is due prior to Saturday, Sept. 26, along with $10. Cooks are required to show up with their slow cookers and ingredient lists between 10 and 10:30 a.m. in order to start the official judging on time. This year, each entrant will receive a commemorative green chile baseball hat.

Three judges volunteer for the difficult and filling job of choosing their favorite chiles. Each judge tastes all chiles present and rates them on a scale from 1 to 10, plus takes notes in case the scores are close. Then the scores are added up and prizes are awarded to first, second and third places in the meat and vegetarian categories.

Once the judges are finished, the tasting is opened up to the public, who by this time have usually created a formidable queue. Each person who participates in the tasting and pays $7 is entitled to 10 tastes and a vote for the People’s Choice Award, which goes to the chile with the most votes overall.

The PAGCC is part of the Mountain Chile Cha Cha, which is hosted by GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors). The Cha Cha is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and will take place in Town Park rain or shine (or both). There is a kids’ fun race, a 5k, 10k and half marathon for competitors of all abilities. Go to www.joingecko.org for more information.

Also part of the Cha Cha event is a Latin music concert featuring Santa Fe’s renowned Nacha Mendez Trio. This “diva of Latin music” is known to perform tango, salsa, cha cha and bossa nova, or possibly all of the above in one show.

Nacha Mendez will hit the stage at 1 p.m. Local favorite Los Mitotitos will start at 3 p.m. to close the show.

Other attractions include a Mexican beer garden, Hatch green chiles roasted on site and an all-day kids’ corner with face painting and henna tattoos. Also back by popular demand will be the margarita contest, where local restaurants and bars compete for best margarita.

This is a free community event. We hope to see you at the Cha Cha.