The New Mexico-Colorado chile rivalry has come to Ignacio.
Farmington challenged Ignacio to prove that Colorado has better chiles at the town’s third annual Ignacio Green Chile Fest to be held Saturday at Shoshone Park.
The chile debate is years old, but this summer, the states’ governors added some heat, passing comebacks and challenges back and forth via social media. The rivalry sprang up between the two towns when old friends challenged each other (in a fun and friendly way, they said) to settle the debate. Now, it’s up to Ignacio vendors to prove to Farmington judges that they have the better chile.
“We’re so close to the state line, I thought we’re a perfect place to say, ‘Come on Colorado, try to prove you guys have the best chile,’” said Jamie Church, president/CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce.
The Ignacio Green Chile Fest, organized by the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce and Farmers Fresh Market, features a green chile cook-off and salsa contest, a cornhole tournament, kids games and more. It will also have live music and beer from Bottom Shelf Brewery.
“Green chile is such an important part of the heritage for this area. ... You eat it on everything,” said Sharon Craig, co-organizer for the festival and an Ignacio Chamber of Commerce officer.
With a chile war going on between the state governors, Church said she thought it would be fun to bring the rivalry to Ignacio and Farmington, so she reached out to Craig about the idea. She and Craig are longtime friends – Church even grew up with Craig’s husband, Clark, in Durango, she said.
“We just thought it would be so fun to get a little more interaction between the communities with these chile cook-offs,” Church said, stoking the rivalry during a Facebook video with Durango Chamber of Commerce executive director, Jack Llewellyn.
For the first time, Farmington will send representatives to act as judges, including San Juan County Commissioner GloJean Todacheene and Farmington City Councilor Janis Jakino. Craig and Church hope that Ignacio will either send a judge or its green chile champion to the Farmington Chile Fest on Oct. 5.
The Colorado-New Mexico rivalry rose to new heights this summer after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called New Mexico chile “inferior” in a July Facebook post about Whole Foods Market opening sales of Pueblo chile in four Rocky Mountain states.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham fired back and said, “If Pueblo chile were any good, surely it would have been on national shelves before now. But if Gov. Polis wants to go chile to chile I assure him New Mexico can bring the heat.”
Then, they were off. Legislators from each state weighed in. A debate ignited on Twitter. New Mexico even released an ad in September that said New Mexico chile was the only true green chile and calling Colorado New Mexico’s “less fortunate neighbors in the north.”
Through the chile fest, the Ignacio chamber aims to bring people to Ignacio in hopes that they will spend money at other businesses in town, Craig said. It’s a family-friendly opportunity for community members who haven’t seen each other to enjoy time together.
The rivalry between Ignacio and Farmington is also about a larger community.
“We need to think regionally,” Church said. “We all stop in these different places. We visit these different places. ... What a fun thing to get the two communities involved together?”
Both Church and Craig, however, are sure that their chile is superior.
“Of course, I think our green chile is the best,” Craig said. The goal is to establish a bit of that rivalry “but in a good way,” she said.
Although Church said she still loves her Durango community, she’s pro-Farmington when it comes to chile. She’s sure that Ignacio vendors aren’t entering the Farmington festival because they know they’re not going to win against New Mexico chile.
“Obviously, Farmington would win. We’re known for our chile,” Church said. “Even in downtown Denver, there are billboards with our Hatch green chile on them.”