Last week, I devoted this space to some of the cool and interesting things around Pueblo that I haven’t found time to do yet. This week, I’d like to add three more Pueblo attractions that I would have seen already, but can’t, because they don’t exist yet.
First on my list is a showdown between the top chile cooks from Pueblo against the top cooks from the Hatch, N.M. region. I know I’m not the first to have this idea. From what I understand, the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce challenged the good people of Hatch to participate in such a contest some years ago.
I’m not sure why that didn’t happen. Maybe there was disagreement about whose home turf should be used for such an epic spice battle. But if that was the only hold-up, that’s easy to fix. The contest could be held in alternating locations each year. Or, failing that, the median of Interstate 25 along the Colorado-New Mexico border would work just fine. (OK, I’m kidding about the median idea. Sort of.)
It wouldn’t be hard to determine who would represent Pueblo in such a contest. We already have professional and amateur winners selected in the Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival each year. Hatch has a chile festival of its own — or at least so I’m told. The locals there could hold a similar contest at that festival, then send its “best” to do battle with our top chile gladiators.
As for who would judge such a contest, the most obvious answer would be me since I’m appropriating this idea. But if the Hatch people wouldn’t go for that, then surely some neutral third party would be willing to sacrifice his or her innards annually to settle such an important matter of bragging rights. Ideally, one of the celebrity chefs from the Food Network or one of those food challenge junkies from the Travel Channel could be recruited.
The second idea on my list is also food related. Every year, the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest gets gobs of media attention on our nation’s birthday. This year, I remember being slightly grossed out by TV coverage of the event, since it was airing at the same time I was trying to enjoy my dinner at a local restaurant.
But think what a publicity bonanza it would be if Pueblo had a competing event on the same day. No, not with hot dogs. That’s been done. But what about a slopper eating contest? It could bring national attention to one of our community’s signature food products.
To tell the truth, I’d never heard of a slopper before I came to town for my job interview with the Chieftain. After a waitress explained the concept to me at dinner one night, I had to give sloppers a try.
After all, who doesn’t like hamburgers? And who doesn’t like chile? It’s as natural a food pairing as putting chocolate and peanut butter must have seemed to those geniuses at Reese’s.
My third idea is a little more obscure, but please stay with me on this one. I think this community needs a festival in honor of writer Damon Runyon.
I realize that not everyone may know about Runyon or his ties to Pueblo. Some might say such a festival would be more appropriate for New York, where Runyon arguably earned his greatest fame. But why does New York have to get all the good stuff?
While Runyon might not be a household name any more, I’m sure he has followers. And I know of several communities around the country that hold festivals to honor writers who either were born or lived there. Ernest Hemingway Days in Key West, Fla., draws throngs of people, many sporting beards that resemble the renowned writer’s.
It’s true that it doesn’t take a whole lot to entice people to visit Key West. But people also trek to Hannibal, Mo., each year for Tom Sawyer Days in honor of Mark Twain.
I’ve been to Hannibal. My daughter and grandchildren live there. And let me tell you, if Hannibal can pull an event like that off, so could we.
You don’t have to love literature or chile-based food to recognize the economic impact any of these events could bring. I know that it’s unrealistic to expect all, or maybe even any, of them to happen in 2019. But a guy can dream, can’t he?
Blake Fontenay, The Chieftain's opinion page editor, is new to Pueblo. His column, Pueblo 101, describes what it's like to see the city through the eyes of a newcomer. To make comments or offer suggestions on what he should try next, email him at email@example.com.