HEBER — Hundreds of residents from the surrounding residential areas strolled through the Third Annual Heber Tamale Fest as the bustling food stands and toy vendors permeated the atmosphere of Tito Huerta Park.
It seemed like the third
time was the charm when it came to weather conditions. The event’s debut and
sophomore outing were somewhat disturbed by heavy rain and winds, respectively.
However, on the morning of the Jan. 11 the weather could not have been calmer.
This, paired with the number of tamale-contest entries effectively being
tripled, displayed the growing popularity of the event.
The community seemed to
be in full support, alluding to the festival’s potential staying power,
something that came as a source of satisfaction to event organizer, Wasupwu
“I have to admit, I
didn’t quite know what I got myself into when I took on organizing the first
Tamale Fest,” said Wasupwu co-founder, Juan Molina.
“It started off as a bet
between us, as husband and wife,” explained Helen Molina, the other half of the
“She bet that I wouldn’t
take on the challenge of organizing an event for Heber, and once I realized
what that entailed, we both began to truly work together to get this done,” said
The motivation for the
event’s conception took heavy cues from signature events such as the recently
discontinued Holtville Rib Cook-Off.
“We just noticed that a
lot of the other towns in the (Imperial) Valley had their own event that
brought them together as a small community, and that’s when it hit us and we
agreed that there needed to be something like that for Heber,” said Juan.
The event included a long
list of guests and special performances, alongside plenty of options for those
who still long for the holiday staple of tamales.
“I’ve been catering for
my friends since I was 19, and back then I was mostly known and contacted
through word of mouth” said Janina Enriquez, one of the contestants. “I really
put my all into cooking. It’s my passion and it pays off even more when I get
to see everyone enjoy what I make such as today.”
Featuring a very peculiar
“Hot Cheeto” recipe for her signature tamale, the hot pink concoction made by
the Imperial-based Enriquez certainly caught the attention of guests.
“I see that the other
contestants are putting out good food, but with this recipe I’m making an
effort to stand out and put my passion on display,” said Enriquez.
“I enjoy participating in
the event because it gives me a chance to enjoy the family atmosphere and lets
me have fun cooking with good friends,” said Jonathan Sandoval, representing
Brawley with his year-old company “Clamatos Preparados and More.”
He added, “We’ve
participated in other events such as the Taco Showdown in Brawley, so we
decided to give tamales a try this time around.”
The panel of judges
featured a number of local politicians and candidates in upcoming local
elections, such as El Centro City Council Member Edgard Garcia, Imperial
Irrigation District Director Erik Ortega, and IID candidate JB Hamby.
The panel ruled that
Kennedy’s Market from El Centro provided the best tamales for their entry.