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Oct. 5 event will feature food, beer garden and live music

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FARMINGTON — The next battle in the New Mexico-Colorado chile war will be fought next weekend when the annual Chile in October Challenge takes place in Berg Park.

The popular fall event, now more than a decade old, is likely to have the heat turned up under it this year because of the attention generated by a series of exchanges over the summer between Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham over which state's chile is better.

The trash talking between those two chief executives never really resolved the issue, so the Farmington Chamber of Commerce hopes to do its part to settle the question on Oct. 5.

Chamber president Jamie Church said her organization has made a concentrated effort to market the event north of the border and encourage Colorado chile chefs to uphold the honor of their state. That effort paid off a few days ago when the contest netted its first Colorado entry — and a big fish, at that. Church said the winner of a Sept. 21 chile cookoff in Ignacio will compete in Farmington.

"We knew going in it would be tough for Colorado chefs to enter," she said, citing the logistical challenges of cooking and transporting chile on the same day. So she was pleased to have at least one out-of-state competitor take the bait. "But we love the trash talking back and forth."

With several days still to go before the event, Church is hoping other Colorado chefs will follow that example and sign up. As of Sept. 27, 16 competitors already had signed up, and Church was expecting to at least match the record of 18.

She acknowledged that all the insults being hurled back and forth between chile fans on both sides of the border is all in good fun, and she hopes it has energized the event.

"We're very happy to just build upon it and use it for the chile cookoff this year," she said.

The contest features five categories, including red, green, homestyle and salsa, so there are plenty of chances for competitors to win, she noted.

The entries will be judged by six judges. The panel includes Bonnie Hopkins, an agriculture agent with the New Mexico State University San Juan County Extension Office; and Monica Schultz, owner of the Chile Pod restaurant in downtown Farmington. Schultz has won the People's Choice award in the red chile category at the event several times.

More: Colorado, New Mexico govs turn up the heat over chile bragging rights

While the cookoff has featured beer vendors in the past, Church said this year's event would be the first time for it to offer a full-fledged beer garden. The Chile in October Challenge also will feature live music.

Church said the cookoff is a great community-building event.

"It's a fun day to celebrate what New Mexico is known for," she said.

The Chile in October Challenge takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 5 in Berg Park, 400 Scott Ave. in Farmington. Admission is $10 at the gate, and children age 10 and younger will be admitted free. Admission to the beer garden for those 21 and older is $10 and includes unlimited samples.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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