By Jacque Aragon
Special to The PREVIEW
Here in southwestern Colorado, the fall season arrives with shorter days, cooler nights and bushels of fresh roasted green chiles. Our small town of Pagosa Springs hosts a spectacular annual green chile cook-off where chefs compete for cash, trophies and bragging rights.
This event, the Patty Aragon Green Chile Classic (PAGCC), celebrates the green chile harvest and a local green chile enthusiast who sated our green chile palettes for years with her tasty homemade recipe.
The PAGCC’s mission 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 in the ‘70s until 1992. They served traditional American and Southwestern cuisine and were most famous for their green chile, which they served 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 10 years. “I’m proud to carry on the family tradition and love seeing other people get excited about making and eating green chile.”
The proceeds from the cook-off go to the Patty Aragon Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will be awarded to a Pagosa Springs High School senior.
Roughly 40 entrants, both amateur and professional, compete in the cook-off each year. Some cooks get creative; others go classic. Without their generous contribution of time, effort and ingredients, this community event would not be possible. 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. Each entrant will receive an entry gift. To register your chile into the cook-off, visit ilovegreenchile.com.
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 1-10, plus takes notes in case the scores are close. Then the scores are added up and monies and medals are awarded to first, second and third places in meat and vegetarian. The first place award in the meat and veggie and people’s choice categories is $200 and a trophy. Second and third place in the meat and veggie category get medals and bragging rights. The commercial category first-place winner will receive a special award.
Once the judges are finished, the tasting is opened up to the public at 12:30 p.m. Each person who participates in the tasting pays $10 and is entitled to 10 tastes and a vote for the people’s choice awards for first, second and third places. Commercial entries will also be eligible for these prestigious awards.
The cook-off classic is part of the Mountain Chile Cha Cha, which is hosted by the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and will take place in Town Park, rain or shine. There is a 5k, 10k and a half marathon for competitors of all abilities. The race is hosted by the Pagosa Peaks Volleyball Club. Go to joingecko.org for more information and to enter.
Cha Cha-goers will also enjoy a Spanish music concert featuring Sangre Joven, a popular band who originated in the Northern New Mexico pueblo de Las Vegas. Their style of music is performed in El Estillo Del Norte De Nuevo Mexico and consist of rancheras, cumbias, corridos, polkas and valses.
There will be a Mexican beer garden, Hatch green chiles for sale and roasted on site, and a kid’s corner. The Chamber will also feature a margarita contest and tasting where local restaurants and bars compete for best margarita.
This is a free community event that will take place on Saturday, Sept. 22; we hope to see you at the Cha Cha.
By Jacque Aragon