Hatch chile festival sign

The 2024 Hatch Chile Festival

People around the world love New Mexico chile, because it has a good manageable amount of heat and a lot of meatiness that can be used to pack a lot of chile flavor into any food you can imagine. Of New Mexico chile, Hatch chile is the most famous by far. In fact, Hatch chile is a more popular way of saying New Mexico chile, though the chile varietals are named Numex at NMSU’s chile breeding program. One of the main reasons Hatch is so famous, besides the excellent terroir, is the Hatch Chile Festival. This annual festival takes place on Labor Day weekend every year, and is as big to Hatch as the Balloon Fiesta is for Albuquerque, Zozobra is for Santa Fe, or the Chile Drop for Las Cruces. Visiting a chile roaster is a great travel idea, and Hatch is the epicenter of chile roasting in New Mexico during the chile festival in 2024, and beyond!

A bunch of xxx-hot Lumbre Hatch chiles at Farmers Chile Market in Albuqueruque
This is what you came for

Hatch Chile Festival History

The original Hatch Chile Festival was held in 1971, with just a few local growers. It was a small event for a small town, but but it was special and more and more interest developed over the years. In modern times, the festival has become quite popular, with people traveling from all over to visit. As a year had to be cancelled due to covid, 2024 marks the 52nd Hatch Chile Festival.

An old sign for the Hatch Chile Festival that can be found by continuing east on Hall street from the downtown area
Welcome to Hatch!

When is the Hatch Chile Festival in 2024?

The Hatch Chile Festival always takes place on Labor Day Weekend, which is August 31st and September 1st this 2024 chile season. As Labor Day is very early this year, I wouldn’t expect a huge amount of chile ristras available unfortunately. There will certainly be some farmers who purposely let their green chile ripen early instead of harvesting in order to sell ristras however, so you will definitely be able to find some nice ristras still.

the Hatch water-tower taken during the Hatch Chile Festival during peak chile season
If you see this water tower, head east to the festival or west to the fields!

Layout of the Hatch Chile Festival

The festival has several distinct areas, with the epicenter being around the intersection of Franklin and Hall Streets. The high school pecan orchard is one major area, from there, there is a lot to do going west and south. It is overall fairly walkable, but there is a shuttle bus that you can ride that has a stop in front of the orchard on Franklin Street too. In case you are planning to go to shops on Franklin street north of the Circle K, I recommend going by car, as the shops on the road towards I-25 are more spread out and lack shade.

Where to park for the Hatch Chile Festival?

Most years, the best place to park is at the Hatch Valley High School. If you are coming into Hatch off of I-25, turn left just after the Circle K onto Herrera Rd. The pecan orchard at the high school is used to host some events, like auctions, shows, and competitions. I’ve parked there for free the last few years, but they may charge for parking at some point. From the school, you can proceed southwest to the downtown area on foot.

What to Eat at the Hatch Chile Festival

front of Skarky's, the most famous green chile cheeseburger place in Hatch, NM
Sparky’s is located at the biggest intersection in Hatch. It’s packed around lunchtime, so expect to wait

Walking southwest from the Pecan Orchard, you can find restaurants like Sparky’s to get a green chile cheeseburger. You might have to wait a while, as the lines run around the block during chile fest weekend. In case you are looking for quicker food that can be consumed on the go, make a quick stop at B & E Burritos. For those of you looking for a place to sit down, Pepper Pot is also a nice option! Valley Cafe is also nearby and has great reviews, but I can’t comment from personal experience. I will try to go this when I visit Hatch! In addition to restaurants, there are also plenty of vendors selling small foods and refrescos! You are never far from a snack or drink during the Hatch Chile Festival!

a stacked red chile enchilada plate at Pepper Pot in Hatch, NM during the Hatch Chile Festival
This is a stacked red chile enchilada plate from Pepper Pot!

A Mostly Walkable Festival

Going further west along Hall Street, you will see more restaurants and grocery stores. When you see Village Market, if you go north on School Street, they often have a carnival with various rides and games to play at the lot on the corner of School and Hill Street. In case you are walking, there isn’t too much reason to walk much past Chile Fanatic on Hall Street, as the town gets very spread out around there. In case you want to visit the Grajeda Farms store, it’s better to go by car.

Hatch isn’t a big city, so you can walk from one side of town to the opposite side in about half an hour. As Labor Day weekend is still summertime, be sure to drink plenty of water, and rest in the shade if you need to. Stop in a grocery store or restaurant for air conditioning and refreshments if you feel overheated. The vendors here have the chile roasters blasting all day, so it can be somewhat hard to cool down without making a specific effort to do so.

a picture of the gazebo in the Hatch Midtown park, next to the museum
The gazebo in the park is also a nice spot to sit down out of the sun!

What to do at the 2024 Hatch chile Festival

Feel the pulse of New Mexico chile

This is an event that encompasses the entire town. If there is a business in Hatch, you bet it will be open during the event. I don’t really recommend driving around town unless you have somewhere specific to be. It’s way more fun to walk around and see all the sites, different stores, vendors, and artists in the community. Although Hatch is a small town, it is lively during chile season. During this event, it becomes a whole city devoted to chile. Whether you want food, candy, earrings, or fashion related to chile, you can find it. You will even find people dressed as chile, as well as people with hats decorated like ristras, chile roasters, or some other chile related thing.

A welcome to Hatch sign at the Hatch Chile Festival, along with mariachis playing music
You can find this sign right in the middle of Hatch!

Learn to tie a chile ristra

During the festival, you will be able to see people tying chile ristras in many different places throughout the village. If they aren’t too busy, feel free to ask them to show you how to tie a ristra, and maybe you can even make your own! In case they are too busy to teach you, I have a brief guide on tying a ristra on my page about chile ristras.

people learning how to tie a chile ristra at the Hatch Chile Festival in New Mexico
You can find ristra tying classes in the Hatch Valley High School Pecan Orchard!

Buy a Ristra

Hatch, New Mexico during the chile festival has more types of ristras than literally anywhere in the world! If you want to take back a chile souvenir, shopping for ristras in Hatch is a great idea. From the normal large straight sandia chile ristras, chile wreaths, chile pequin ristras, these yellow chile guerito ristras, or even garlic and onions, you can find them in Hatch during the festival!

a photo of many 2 ft long yellow and red chile ristras at Hatch Chile Market during the Hatch Chile Festival

Learn How to Roast Chile like a pro

The same thing goes with roasting chile, if the roasters are busy, try not to ask too many questions and just observe. The competition for chile roasting in Hatch is very fierce, which means the roasters need to be on point. In case you come at a very busy time and are unable to ask your questions about roasting, I have a guide to roast on a barrel roaster too! Roasting at scale is very different than roasting on a BBQ grill or an oven broiler. The heat levels need to be much higher to properly blister the chile before evaporation of water lowers the temperature. The guide above goes in depth about roasting both at home and with a giant barrel shaped pepper roaster! It has plenty of ideas for those who are roasting a little, or even those who want to set up their own chile operation!

A chile roasted filled with Hatch chile pintado, or red and green chile roasting in Albuquerque, New Mexico
You will have plenty of chances to see these chile roasters up close!

Make a silly Chile hat and dress up!

Part of the fun at the chile fest is to be creative, and do what you can to enjoy all things chile with different people! Every year, there are competitions related to chile related fashion! You can see people dressed up in clothes that make them look like a chile pepper, or even see chile roasters made into hats!

A man wearing a chile roaster hat and chili pepper pants at the Hatch Chile Festival
I like his fashion!

Check out a Firetruck

As a chile roaster in Albuquerque, we rely on the fire department to keep us safe, as roasting chile is dangerous. We have a first responders discount as one way of showing our appreciation to them. Hatch is no different, and there are many chile roasters who know that the fire department will be there in minutes if there is a roasting mishap. During the festival, they show off their firetrucks, and show kids how they work! My son loves firetrucks, and is always super happy to see all the different technology involved in them. He got a great explanation about it from the Hatch Fire Department!

a photo of a Hatch Fire Department firetruck, along with firefighters answering kids questions about it
Be sure to show your kids how cool these firetrucks are!

Cool off at Icebox Brewing

Across the street from Sparky’s at the main intersection of Hatch, you can find Icebox Brewing. Next to here is often a stage with live music performances that go until about 10 pm. During the chile fest, you can find many different people enjoying a cold beer here, and there are often specialty beers which are made specifically for the Hatch Chile Festival!

a beer at the Hatch Chile Festival with chile powder on the rim
This beer was spiced up by a rim of chile powder! You can find some interesting stuff at the Chile Festival

A word of caution to the superhot lovers

A mix of different superhot peppers, including various Carolina Reaper varieties
Don’t come to the Hatch Chile Festival looking for superhots

New Mexico chile is a great chile, but it isn’t going to blow you away in terms of heat if you eat ghost peppers like candy. Our chile is a huge part of our culture, but we use it for much more than just the heat. It is the soul food for us in New Mexico. Heat is important, but not the only thing we are looking for. Even our Lumbre Chile, which is arguably the hottest chile, and certainly the most consistently hot chile we grow a lot of in New Mexico only ranges around 10,000 Scoville. When you compare it to Carolina Reapers or Pepper X, it is less than 1% of the heat level. That being said, there are way more ways to cook with our chile than superhots. Additionally, you can always make a chile relleno and put ghost pepper powder in the cheese to kick it up about 10 notches. Good luck making a chile relleno with a 7-Pot. Don’t come to the festival expecting the hottest chili peppers, it isn’t about that.

Roasted chile just coming out of a chile roaster
Roasted green chile is the real magic of the Hatch Chile Festival

The Hatch Chile Festival is a celebration of New Mexican culture and cuisine that goes far beyond just spice. If you are looking for the hottest stuff around, there are plenty of other events which may suit you better. If you want to see the celebration of many small local New Mexican businesses and enjoy the warmth of both the food and the people, the Hatch Chile Festival is for you. Welcome to New Mexico, and see you on Labor Day Weekend, 2024!

A group of 2 foot red chile ristras in front of Farmers Chile Market "chile" graffiti
And these red chile ristras are a welcome bonus too!

Hatch Chile Festival FAQ

What is the Hatch Chile Festival?

The Hatch Chile Festival is the largest event in Hatch, New Mexico the Chile Capital of the World. It is an event that encompasses the whole town, with carnival rides, shows, competitions, many different vendors, and much more! 2024 is the event’s 52nd iteration!

When in the Hatch Chile Festival

The Hatch Chile Festival is on Labor Day weekend every year, with the dates in 2024 being Saturday, August 31st and Sunday, September 1st this year. There is also a carnival and music which starts on Friday evening, the day before the main events start.

How much does the Hatch Chile Festival cost?

As the festival encompasses the entire town, the base cost is free! Parking has been free in recent years, but is not guaranteed every year. If you plan to go shopping, the roasted chile will likely be about $40 a sack this year, but small amounts are also available for purchase. Additionally, there are many vendors selling different decorations, fashion, jewelry, and much more. This is an event where someone could spend $5 or $1,000 depending on what kind of shopping they do!

Is Hatch, NM worth visiting?

In case you like New Mexico chile, it absolutely is worth a visit during the chile season! The Hatch Chile Festival is an especially good time, as it becomes very lively with lots to do and see. Hatch is also a great place to stop in case you are taking an I-25 road trip in New Mexico! Outside of the chile season, it is a small town without too much to do if you aren’t related to the chile business. Many local businesses are closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.