Peppers from Graves Farm and Garden hang in abundance at the 18th annual Chile Cheese Festival and Quilt Show at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center, Saturday. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Local Roswell residents stood and restlessly waited a little while longer for the promised buses on Main Street, just north of the Roswell Convention and Civic Center. Behind them vendors hawked goods, bands rocked out on stage, and local chile farmers roasted one of the Chile Cheese Festivalâ€™s namesakes â€” not the cheese. And that was just outdoors.
Inside, local businesses sold beauty and healthcare products and more than 300 quilts were on display.
The morning gray gave way to afternoon sunshine, helping make the 18th edition of this celebration the â€œbest one ever,â€ in the words of Cheryle Pattison, a board member for MainStreet Roswell, the group that organized the event.
After years of personal scheduling conflicts, Winona and Robert Eichler bought tickets for the 10 a.m. Leprino tour. They arrived by 9:30 a.m. and waited and waited. By 11 a.m., with still no bus in sight, they got a refund and left.
Another Roswell couple waited out the bus and, finally, made it to Leprino at 11:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. tour.
â€œIt was a shame that there was such a delay,â€â€ˆhe said after confessing that the tour, which lasted more than an hour and included samples of â€œstandard, whiteâ€ Leprino cheese, was worth the wait.
Pattison and fellow board member, Juliana Halvorson, explained that both miscommunication between event organizers and the bus driver and misinformed Leprino security guards caused the delay.
Tours to Leprino are offered only the one day of the festival, and, to go on the tour, visitors had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, pledging they wouldnâ€™t share details from the tour.
Sources didnâ€™t recall hearing any revealing information from the tour. And Leprinoâ€™s Roswell plant did not return calls Friday or Saturday to discuss the plant and Saturdayâ€™s tours.
Chile roasters, emitting their signature aromas, ensured that the green chiles would not be outdone by the aura of mystery enveloping the cheese portion of the festival.
Graves Farms, usually based at 6265 S. Graves Road, was selling produce, including roasted chilies, of course, and ristras. Andrew Graves, a fourth-generation farmer, explained that the family farm ships chilies to tourists, a big part of its business, who wouldnâ€™t know about the product without the festival.
The exposure helps on the short-term, too. During the Friday and Saturday of the festival, Graves sells about three times as many chilies as on an average weekend.
Both Graves and Halvorson were happy to have the Pecos Valley Quilt Guildâ€™s show be part of the festival. Halvorson suggested that together the two celebrations were greater than the sum of their parts. â€œWe add to them, and they add to us,â€â€ˆshe said.
Chase Martinson, a self-taught juggler and high school senior, drew appreciation from the crowd as he suavely and repeatedly tossed three bowling pins through the air. His tip box was packed to the brim with ones and an occasional fiver â€” a sign of a successful festival.