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Chile Pepper Festival: It’s time to get hot. September 3, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Just as the weather cools down, it’s time to heat up with the 14th annual Bowers Chile* Pepper Food Festival, coming to the William DeLong Park in scenic Bowers, PA on Friday and Saturday, September 11th and 12th, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, Richard Saunders, and our friends anticipate the arrival of this beloved event every year. From the time the billboards go up at the beginning of summer, we look forward to what is one of the highlights of our year. (The others are the Kutztown Folk Festival, Stahl Pottery Festival, PA Renewable Energy Festival, Green Lane Scottish and Irish Festival, Celtic Classic, and Kristkindlmarkt, which see.)

If you’re anywhere near eastern Pennsylvania that weekend, we enthusiastically urge you to drop by and enjoy the festival. You can buy every type of fresh hot pepper under the sun, from jalapenos and cayenne to habaneros, Scotch bonnets, and the fabled Bhut Jalokia, the world’s hottest pepper. And you can also buy what we suspect is the world’s largest selection of dried chile pepper blends, salsas, hot sauces, ristras and wreaths of dried peppers, and pepper paraphernalia. Chiliheads can enjoy every conceivable sort of pepper-related food, from hot pepper chocolates and jellies to chile-laced cheeses and roasted ears of corn with chile-butter sauce. Not to mention, of course, a wealth of actual chilis, chili dogs, jalapeno poppers, and every other three-alarm treat your heart desires.

Other aspects we particularly enjoy are the wide assortment of crafts available, from gorgeous hand-dyed tee-shirts to handmade dream catchers. Our friend Rob especially likes the assortment of genuine cotton Hawai’ian shirts at one particular booth, and of course Richard can’t get enough of the hotter-than-hell hot sauces in their endless variations. (His favorite to date is Endorphin Rush.) And more than one of our friends (ahem, you know who you are) can be found sampling the huge assortment of salsas, sauces and other treats that practically every booth provides for free. There are plenty of (non-alcoholic) beverages on hand to quench the flames, and there’s live music. The park is lovely and shady with a walking trail and ample bathrooms (Silence asked our friend Ben to make a point of mentioning this) and parking.

Other highlights include three contests: a hot-pepper-eating contest (yow), a hot-pepper song contest (ow), and new this year, a salsa contest. At first, we thought this might be a salsa-eating contest, but it’s actually a country-fair style salsa judging contest. People bring their homemade salsas and recipes, the judges sample them on a ten-point rating system, and the winners get ribbons. Great idea! Silence is hoping the recipes will be posted on the festival website (www.pepperfestival.com), which also has highlights of last year’s festival and directions to the somewhat obscure town of Bowers, so we urge you to check it out.

One of the most fun aspects of the festival from our perspective involves the reason Bowers has a chile pepper festival at all, and that’s Jim Weaver and his Meadow View Farm. We’ve posted about Jim, his work, and his farm many times here on Poor Richard’s Almanac, but he continues to awe and amaze us. A conservative Mennonite (think the Amish’s older cousins) who uses no electricity in his home and farms with horses, Jim Weaver is a recognized world-class expert in heirloom hot peppers. Ask him anything at all about hot peppers, and you’re bound to learn something. You can buy his own famous blends of “Dutchy Gun Powder” (a pun on the Pennsylvania Dutch, aka Deitsch, aka Deutsch, aka German, of whom the Amish and Mennonites are part, and hot pepper powder blends) and go on horse-drawn hayrides to his nearby Meadow View Farm from the festival. Or you can just drive over there and explore the thriving nursery, buy some heirloom peppers and tomatoes, take home a jar of one of Alma Weaver’s amazing hot pepper jams or jellies (our favorites are the blackberry/Czech Black and peach/Lemon Drop) or many other home-canned delights, get some herbs from their extensive selection to fill out your herb garden, or simply stroll around and enjoy their gardens and farm animals, including llamas, goats, and miniature horses. Good times, guaranteed!

Finally, a warning: In addition to no alcohol, the festival allows no pets, so leave your pups at home (they wouldn’t like hot peppers anyway). This is a family-friendly festival, so bring the kids, even if they couldn’t care less about hot peppers. They’ll still have a wonderful time. And so will you! Silence and OFB make a point of stocking up on everything hot pepper while we’re there, since we know we’ll never see a better selection. True, we haven’t actually tried a chile chocolate, but we buy as wide an assortment of hot sauces, salsas, and chile powders as our budget permits, in addition to the gorgeous fresh hot peppers and heirloom tomatoes that are impossible to resist.

*Confusing as this is, the festival insists on maintaining the distinction in spelling between the hot peppers themselves, chiles, and the famous dish made from hot peppers, chili.


1. Lzyjo - September 3, 2009

OMG! This sounds like sounds like much fun. I am so peppered out, but I would still love to see all the beautiful peppers!

They’re SO gorgeous, Lzyjo! Despite the fact that we not only grow our own but can pick plenty from the U-Pick garden at our CSA, we can never resist coming home with at least one bag or box of mixed hot peppers from the festival! Wish you could come.

2. Alan from Roberts Roost - September 3, 2009

I should send you some chili chocolate fudge. If you like spice, this one could be addicting.

Have fun!

Sigh. I’m sure it would be addicting, Alan! (Just what we need… ) Frankly, ALL your fudges sound addictive!

3. nancybond - September 3, 2009

Sounds like a hot time in the old town. 😉 Scotch Bonnets — my one and only experience with them was some 10 years ago when Charlie brought two small, yellow peppers home from the supermarket. At the time, I was making a hamburger/rice/corn mish-mash of a supper, and Charlie (who loves all hot spices) encouraged me to add some to the dish. He went off to shower, and me, knowing nothing about the heat of peppers, finely chopped up BOTH chiles and added them to the dish to sauté with some onion. It smelled delightful. Well, you can guess the rest of the story…I managed to swallow the one bite I took and as I recall, Charlie actually finished a plate of his supper. My mouth was on fire for a day afterward, despite gallons of milk. 🙂 Everything in moderation is a lesson well learned!

Gack!!!!!!!!!!! I’m much more willing to add a splash of hot sauce, such as Pickapeppa or Tasasco Chipotle, to my recipes than to start chopping in chiles, Nancy, especially after almost ending up in the emergency room after stupidly cutting up a bowlful with my bare hands. Yow!!!!!!!!!!!

4. Daphne Gould - September 3, 2009

YUM! I so love chile peppers. I wish we would have such a festival, but chilies in New England just aren’t the same as the ones I had out west. We get way too much water here. I had to add cayenne pepper to my hot pepper jelly because the jalapenos were almost sweet. Still if there were one I”d be there. I’ve been to the chili cook off around here (also not up to western chili cook offs). We do however have a great ice cream festival and a really good clam chowder festival. Those two we are known for.

You know, Daphne, I’ve never tasted a clam—being from the South, I just didn’t encounter them until it was too late and I’d already become a vegetarian—but I always thought someone could write a really fascinating cookbook on the history of clamming and clam chowder, clambakes, clam sauce, fried clams, and etc. with all their regional variations, starting with the Native Americans. Maybe such a book already exists, but if it doesn’t, I think it would be an instant classic!

5. Curmudgeon - September 3, 2009

Too bad Weaver doesn’t do email! I’ve been trying to track down info on Manzano, also know as Rocoto, peppers. Google and Wikipedia have only been mildy helpful. I’d really like to talk to someone who has actually grown them. Can they really survive temps below freezing? Do they really grow to be 4-5ft tall? I have 7 of these growing in the potager. My first indoor seed starting attempt–who knew so many would survive!

Wow—a pepper plant that can survive sub-freezing temperatures?!! I’ll check my pepper books and see if I can find anything, Curmudgeon, and if not, I’ll try to remember to ask Jim Weaver when we’re at the festival and let you know! Aaaarrgghh, there’s an entry for Rocoto/Manzana in Jean Andrews’s “The Pepper Lady’s Pocket Pepper Primer,” but basically she only discusses how extremely hot it is rather than its cultural characteristics.

6. The Pepper Guy - September 7, 2009

Nothing like a great chile festival. I try to attend them when I can along with chili cookoffs. I am here in Indiana and peppers grow pretty well here, so I really can not complain. I have over 120 pepper plants this year. Can you tell I am an addict? Anyway, great post.

BTW, as far as manzanos, I grew them for a few years and they did great. The ones I had were yellow and grew to be a 6ft bush in its 3rd year. It did not produce a great harvest until it was in its 3rd year of growth. Thousands of peppers. They say with the right growing conditions, a manzano can produce 1000 lbs of peppers in its 3rd or 4th year alive. I had to keep mine covered here in Indiana during the coldest months. I know they can survive freezing temps, but below 0 scared me.

Wow, I’m truly impressed! Here I thought we were doing well with our 14 varieties! 120!!!! Kudos to you! And how fascinating about the manzano. Now I’ll have to look for it, too!

7. Irene Mack - September 11, 2009

All these words and long descriptions.

Directions would be helpful.

Ha, “all these words” is right, Irene, and worse still, not a single photo to go with them! That’s why we gave the link to the official website, where you can find some great photos as well as directions. Click on there and we hope you decide to go and have a great time!

8. Pepper Genie - September 4, 2010

Attention All Chileheads:
You’re all invited to attend the Haba-Jala Pepper Fest & Car Show
At Leesport Farmers Market 312 Gernants Church Rd.
Leesport, Pa. 19533 RT. 61 N.
Sat. Sept. 25, 26, 2010
Sat. 9-6pm. ( CAR SHOW. NOON – 5pm. )
Sun. 10-4pm. ( Ghost Pepper Challenge. @ 2pm. $$$$$$$ )
D.J. Music, great B.B.Q’d. food, spicy food vendors fun for all
ONLY $1.00/person all money benefits: Christopher’s Cure…( C.H.O.P.)
Call Deane W. @ 484-794-7515. Vendors still wanted/ Volunteers needed.

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