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Tamale festival returns to Atascadero Jan. 19 

–The City of Atascadero will present the 4th Annual Tamale Festival, to be held in the Sunken Gardens and across the Downtown on Saturday, Jan. 19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. This event has grown each year from the inaugural event in 2016. There will be everything from gourmet to traditional to sweet tamales, featuring tamale vendors coming to town from all over California. You can expect over 30 Tamale Vendors.

The city prepares each year for this event with countywide outreach to numerous local restaurants, caterers and non-profit organizations. In addition to this, they also attend the famous International Tamale Festival held in Indio, California to promote Atascadero’s event and in search of more tamale vendors to add a wide variety of tamales to the local festival.

The very popular “Tamale Contest” will return this year, where all of the tamale vendors can showcase their outstanding work in creating the “best” tamale. There will be a “People’s Choice Tamale” and a “Judges Favorite Tamale.” This year, we will be judging three categories: Gourmet, Traditional and Sweet Tamales.

In 2018, 1st place winners for the “Judges Favorite” for traditional and gourmet tamales went to Shave N’Flav of Paso Robles and 1st place for sweet tamales went to La Luz Del Mundo Church in Paso Robles. The “People’s Choice” award for 1st place went to Garcia’s Restaurant in Atascadero who won across all three categories of tamales. For 2019, members of the Atascadero City Council and local celebrities will kick off the judging of the Tamale Contest at 11 a.m. to select their own personal favorite tamale. The winners of the “Judges Favorite Tamale” along with the People’s Choice for the “Most Popular Tamale” will be announced at 5 p.m.

The “Tamale Eating Contest” is another favorite and this year Que Pasa Mexican Grill is the official sponsor of the contest and Kennedy Club Fitness will be providing gift certificates to the gym for the winners. Anyone interested in participating will go to the Information Booth to register to be in the contest. There will be two categories, one for ages 12 and over on who can eat the most tamales, and one for under 12 years of age to see who can eat two tamales the fastest. These contest participants will have two minutes in each age category to master the goal. There will be an entry fee of $10/ person for 12 & over, free for under 12 years of age. Registrations for the Tamale Eating Contest will take place at the Information Booth from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. The contest will take place at 2:45 p.m. in front of City Hall. Space is limited, first come first served. First place winners will receive a trophy and a gift certificate for Kennedy Club Fitness.

New for 2019: The Chihuahua Costume Contest and Fashion show presented by Woods Humane Society. Registration will take place at the Information booth and the Woods Humane Society booth from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and the contest will take place at 2:15 pm in front of the Entrada stage. Winners of the contest will receive pet oriented prizes including a photo session from Jillian Parks Photography for first place.

Entertainment will feature the Mariachi Mexicanisimo band, the famous Dancing Horses, soloist Manuel Enrique, the popular Folklorico Dancers, as well as music from the Dork Band, Ricky Montijo, and the Los Gatos Locos band. Plus Medina Light Show & Designs being the Emcee of the day. The festival will also include bounce houses, Zorb Balls and an obstacle course by Bubble Fun, plus face painting, balloon animals and plenty of fun for all ages. Over 60 vendors will be available from merchandise and crafts to adult beverages to a wide variety of food vendors beyond tamales to appease everyone’s palette and appetite.

For interested tamale vendors, other food or merchant vendors, the deadline to register is Jan. 4 at 5 p.m. Applications are online at: and click on Tamale Festival.

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