Fiery Foods Festival turns up heat in Pasco

Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 14, 2013 

Fiery Food Festival Returns

Joel Jones of Deming, N.M. roasts peppers Saturday as the Fiery Food Festival returned to Pasco.

PAUL T. ERICKSON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The scene was hectic Saturday inside Page Latham's tent at the Fiery Foods Festival as people lined up to test their courage against her chili peppers.

Latham hauled about 7,000 pounds of green chili peppers from her four-acre farm in Deming, N.M., to the festival in downtown Pasco. The peppers were roasted outside of the tent, then packaged for people to take home.

A lick of her hottest chili pepper, the Triple X, left some customers with tears in their eyes.

"New Mexico has a unique climate for growing chili peppers," said Latham, 44. "The response here has been great because it's a unique product to the area."

Laura Robertson, who once lived in New Mexico, has lived in Richland for the past 11 years.

She agrees that the peppers in the Tri-Cities don't compare to their counterparts from the Southwest.

"They just don't have the same flavor," she said as she waited for her peppers to roast. "Down there they have that hot flavor you don't get (here)."

The one-day street festival returned Saturday to downtown Pasco after a three-year hiatus.

Officials said a lack of volunteers and sponsorships forced it to shut down.

The Downtown Pasco Development Authority was able to secure major sponsors this year and plan the festival in just under eight weeks, said Michael Goins, executive director for the group.

However, bringing the festival back to Pasco was not an easy task.

"There was a lot of pounding the pavement," said Goins, who recently moved to the area from New Jersey. "We were out there every day talking to not only Pasco, but Richland and Kennewick. Getting city officials involved and some major corporations."

There were 40 volunteers at the festival and more than 35 vendors and sponsors, Goins said.

Mike Fritts was one of a handful of vendors who was selling spicy food products.

Fritts' sweet and spicy canned jalapenos are grown in his garden in Kennewick.

Fritts recently started the business and uses a recipe his mother handed down to him.

His mixture of jalapenos, carrots and sweet onions, as well as some secret ingredients, sells for $8 a jar.

Since everything he cans is grown locally, the interest in Fritts' product at the festival was high, he said.

"This (festival) has been better than most of the markets I have been at," he said. "We've been selling pretty good."

The intersection at Lewis Street and Fourth Avenue was shut down for the festival. Live music, a wild bird show, a car show and cultural dancers helped keep crowds entertained until 8 p.m.

Goins is optimistic the festival will continue to grow as an annual event.

"It's important for the Tri-Cities area as a whole to end the summer and celebrate," he said. "To get people from all three cities to come down and see downtown Pasco is an awesome place with a lot of culture."

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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