Menudo and chile verde have their own local food festivals but what of the tamale? The humble Mexican dish, popular around the holidays, is finally getting its moment in the event spotlight with the first Tamale Fest Sunday at Stramler Park.
"There are menudo cookoff, chile verde cookoffs but I don't know why there hasn’t been a tamale event," said Michael Urioste, one of the event's organizers.
Urioste is no stranger to local food events, having put on the Bakersfield Bacon Fest (not to be confused with the Bacon and Craft Beer Festival, which took place last weekend).
Unlike many other festivals, this inaugural event in honor of the masa miracle is all ages and will include a kids' area with activities and games.
And everyone can dance with a packed lineup including headliner Louie Cruz Beltran. The East High grad made his mark as an R&B and Latin jazz musician who has performed with Santana and Smokey Robinson.
Other entertainment will be provided by Vanity Avenue, Lost Vinyl Band, Los Corpenos and La Marcha as well as folklorico dancers and trio of DJs (Cid Hernandez, Danny P and Mickey Rock).
Of course, there will be tamales, with about 15 contenders making theirs on site to compete in the contest. Hungry attendees can sample tamales from the main event booth while they wait. Varieties include chicken in green sauce, jalapeño and cheese, pork and fruit.
Once the tamales are cooked, a panel of a half-dozen judges will sample them all and select their favorites. The first-place winner will receive $500 in cash and a trophy. Trophies will also go out to the second-place finisher and the team with the best decorated booth. After the judges have finished, the contestants can share their dish with attendees, who also select a "people's choice," which will receive a trophy.
The fest will feature other food vendors selling tacos and pizza, among other items. Representatives from Mary Kay, Scentsy and Lularoe will also have spaces along with other local vendors.
Urioste said a portion of proceeds will benefit three local charities: Ronald McDonald House, Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Kern County Hispanic Scholarship Foundation.
Tickets are available in advance for $20 at vallitix.com, Temblor Brewing Co. (3200 Buck Owens Blvd.), Centro 18 Steakhouse (1517 18th St.) and Go Lift Personal Training (3500 21st St.). Admission rises to $30 at the gate.