September is Chilehead Month

Chilehead Monthly September logo


Before we get going on our 2nd newsletter, I wanted to dedicate this month’s newsletter to our good friends Merle and Diana from Hellfire Hot Sauce in the memory of their 2 sons Mike and Jim who were lost in a fatal car crash last Wednesday. I can not imagine how horrible it would be to lose two children on the same day. There are little words you can use to console them at this time as the pain must be unbearable. Yet, I encourage you to leave them your condolences on their company Facebook page HERE and show them the love this community has to give.  Steven Parnell started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help with the expenses.  If you care to help, and every $ helps, you can donate HERE.

When I lost my Dad to Cancer in 2010, I decided to honor him with a tribute called the Lenny Award that I give out on every December 19th to the best products of the year. December 19th is the day he passed away. I chose to celebrate his life, than to mourn his death. It will be a while before Merle and Diana can feel whole again, but I urge them to follow in my footsteps and celebrate their lives with your own special tribute. Something you know they would be proud to be associated with. I am so sorry for your loss, as well as all the people that personally loved your boys.  Good people like yourselves should not have to endure such pain and sorrow. You know if you ever need an ear, I am but a call away my friends.


As they say, the show must go on.  Welcome to the September newsletter for Chilehead Monthly…

If there is a particular time of year that you can truly say was made for the lovers of all things spicy, it is this month of September.  In most parts of the US and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere it is harvesting time.   The chile peppers are ready to be picked and can be bought in local farmer’s markets and some grocery stores.  It is also the time of year for the outdoor festival.  We see them in towns across the country, celebrating whatever they wish to celebrate, enjoying the onset of Autumn temperatures.  It is so true in our world of the fiery food festival.  There are more festivals and events that cater to our ilk than any other month of the year.  The celebration of the chile is wide spread across the country.  Just check out this massive list of spicy parties, (full calendar event listing HERE):

44th Annual Hatch Chile Festival
Sept 5 – Sept 6, 2015 – Hatch, NM
The large spicy foods festival which boasts over 30,000 annual visitors from all over the United States every Labor Day Weekend (Saturday & Sunday only)

National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival
Sept 5-6, 2015 – Coca Cola Field, 275 Washington St, Buffalo, NY 14203.
This is the biggest wing event in the world, and filled with a lot of events throughout the weekend.

20th Annual Bowers Chile Pepper Food Festival
Sept 11, 2015 – Sept 12, 2015 – William Delong Park, 233 Bowers Rd, Bowers PA
Large festival in eastern Pennsylvania featuring eating contests and more.
Website: for details.

9th Annual North Carolina Hot Sauce Festival
Sept 12, 2015, 11am-4pm – Main Street, College Street and Hillsboro Street in Oxford, NC.
Regional hot sauce festival occurring in downtown historic Oxford, NC, taking place on Main St., College St. and Hillsboro St.

NJ Taco Festival
September 12, 2015, 10am-8pm
Sussex County Fairgrounds
37 Plains Road
Augusta, NJ 07822
(646) 957-3484
A celebration of the all mighty taco. There will be taco eating contest, amateur salsa and guacamole contests, Chihuahua Costume Contest, and even Lucha Wrestling.

14th Annual I Like it Hot! Festival
September 12 & 13, 2015 – Minnreg Hall, Largo, FL
Regional event with hot sauces, chile peppers, contests and more.

Pasco Fiery Foods Festival
Sept 12, 2015, 4pm – 10:00 pm
Downtown Pasco, WA located between 4th Avenue and Lewis Street
Anyone who appreciates the hotter things in life is invited to indulge in Downtown Pasco’s Fiery Foods Festival – a combination of bold flavors, exciting cultures and an explosive celebration of music, fun and food.
Phone: (509) 546-1304
Email: di******@do***********.com

15th Annual Houston Hot Sauce Festival
Saturday, September 19, 2015 to Sunday, September 20, 2015 at the Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Rd, Stafford, TX.
For Details contact Carol Bourge at (281) 558 – 3518 or ca***@ho*************.com
The popular hot sauce/spicy foods show for the Houston, TX area, and one of the biggest spicy events in the country.

Sunday Sept 20th, 2015 – 11:00am – 8:00pm
3314 Wagner Road
Allison Park PA 15101
Seeking Food Vendors, Entertainment, Artists, Merchandisers, Crafters, etc.
Email: co*************@gm***.com

PicklePalooza 2015
September 19, 2015
Island Beach State Park
38 Herbert Road
Robbinsville, NJ 08691
Phone: 908-787-2089
Email: in**@Pi***********.com
“Peace, Love, Music, Awareness & All Good Foods in a Jar”  This event is helping benefit Pickles Against World Hunger & Help Rebuild the Jersey Shore.  Local bands from New Jersey as well as Philadelphia will perform live.  Their will be food, hot sauce, salsa and pickle vendors, and much, much more!

Easton’s 5th Annual Chile Pepper Festival
September 19, 2015 – Centre Square, Easton, PA

25th Annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta
SEPTEMBER 23 – 27, 2015
551 W. Cordova Road #723,
Santa Fe, NM 87505.
Phone: (505) 438-8060
Email: in**@sa*****************.org

Open Fields
“Somewhere in Central Indiana” Sept 25th, 26th, 27th, 2015
Chileheads version of Woodstock. Camp out for days, and share spicy food and drink with others of your ilk. Open Campfire at night to warm your footsies. Charity Auction to be held on the 26th for Step it Up for Charity. THIS WILL BE THE FINAL OPEN FIELDS, so please come and see what you were missing!
Contact Jim Campbell for details with “Open Fields 2014” in the subject line at ji*@wi********.com

Phoenix Chile Pepper Festival
Sept 27, 2015 5pm-11pm – LOCATION: PHOENIX PUBLIC MARKET, 721 N CENTRAL AVE, Phoenix, AZ 85004
The Chile Pepper Festival is a local food, music & talent event hosted by Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation (CDC). By presenting some of the best local restaurateurs and chefs in Phoenix, our goal is to highlight the most delicious chile pepper cuisine our city has to offer. Onsite chile roasting, cooking demos, live music, salsa dancing, activities for kids, a talent show hosted by Lawn Gnome Publishing, a Beer Garden presented by Deschutes Brewery AND a gourmet margarita station by 3 Amigos Tequila will all be on the menu! Announcement of the Festival’s best chile pepper dish winners and crowning of the year’s Chile Pepper Champion will culminate the festivities. Admission is FREE! Food and beverages are available for purchase.

As you can see, there are many events all across the country.  If you have never been to one, it just might be your time to spread your Buffalo wings.  I want to discuss a few of these events as I will be attending them, but there is one that is different than the rest.  Open Fields is not a show or a festival or an expo; it is gathering of Chileheads from all over the world.  It has never been shouted out from the rooftops because it has been a private word-of-mouth, invite a buddy type of dealio.  It is REALLY an open field, surrounded by an apple orchard and melon grove.  People come and camp out for a few days and share their love of chile peppers with each other.  Many who have been there, call it the Woodstock for Chileheads.  The difference is the high you will get is not from drugs, it is from the endorphin rush of spicy food.  Yet, it is not about killing each other with heat.  It is far from the YouTube challenge videos and the fiery contests at the festivals.  People walk around the fields and share their food, their drink, their stories.  Some things can not be spoken, but much like Vegas, what happens at Open Fields, stays at Open Fields.

Now let me tell you why this is the time to go to Open Fields.  After about 15 years of doing this, Jim Campbell – former owner of Mild to Wild Herb & Pepper Company, now a Fire Chief full time and a writer for Chile Pepper Magazine/McAby Media part time – has announced that this will be the very last Open Fields in Indiana.  The State has begun construction to build a freeway, and it goes right through the fields where we camp out.  So in 2016, there will be no Open Fields as we know it.  Since this is the last of it’s kind, we want to make it the most special Open Fields ever.  At some time on the afternoon of Saturday September 26th, when we have the most people at any point during the long weekend, Jim will have his annual charity auction to raise money for his Step Up for Charity.  Three main charities are supported by this: to help educate firefighters’ kids through The Jim Cleek Scholarship Fund (an educational endowment in honor of one of Jim’s Lieutenants who died of cancer), to educate Police officers’ kids through The Jason Baker Scholarship (a scholarship in honor of a local police officer murdered in the line of duty), and better US Army Officers through The Maude Foundation (a scholarship in honor of my brother in law, killed on 9-11). These are smaller charities that struggle to receive funding and to whom a small donation means a great deal. 100%- every single penny- of the money donated to this event goes to benefit the charities. There are no overhead costs and any expenses (such as this website and printed materials) are covered by other specific individual donations.

The auction itself, has always received donations from the people who attend the event and friends of Jim that can not make it.  It ranges from homemade spicy treats and crafts to professional products to general everyday stuff.  I won a quesadilla maker once for only a $5 bid!  There are also raffle prizes, tickets of which are purchased prior to the start of the auction.  Only people that are eligible to win have to be there, so Jim doesn’t have to spend the fundraising on shipping costs.  If you wish to donate something to the auction I know Jim and his wife Abby would be very grateful.  Email Jim at Ji*@Wi********.com with the subject “Open Fields” whether you want to donate, get directions or get more information on the event.  I posted and pinned a Facebook event page in the Chileheads group, so please go there if you want to go, so we can get a head count.  The event is never over 100 people, but if it is, then Jim needs to be prepared.  As well as prepare you on the rules on Open Fields, because he borrows the land and a certain decorum needs to be established with any newbies before directions are given.  If you are a subscriber to Chilehead Monthly, know that you have this open invite to attend.  Bring suntan lotion for the day and extra blankets at night as the temperature shift can be quite dramatic.

Another event I want to discuss is the 1st year of PicklePalooza, and you can read a little about it in Crazy Steve Zielinksi’s very passionate guest column.  For the people that do not know Crazy Steve, do not know that this man cares more about the world’s hardships, especially locally in New Jersey, than anyone I know.  There are a lot of company’s in our great community that establish a link between their company’s sales and charity.  Crazy Steve is all over the place, and every product and thing he does targets a different cause.  His Pickles Against World Hunger is ambitious to say the least, as his goals to end world hunger one pickle at a time.  His One Jar, One Meal, One Solution campaign is designed with every jar that you purchase, YOU are giving a meal to someone struggling with hunger through a local food bank in your community.  When Hurricane/Tropical Storm/SuperStorm Sandy hit and laid out many homes in it’s path of destruction, Crazy Steve started another fundraising effort called Rebuild the Jersey Shore.  He is continuing these efforts at PicklePalooza, and wants to create awareness in the things we put in our bodies, on our skin and in the air.  He now has his sights set on the Big “C”, and with his wife diagnosed with Breast Cancer last year, he is starting another grassroots campaign with the New Jersey Green Party, and hopes to make a difference from within the political landscape as we know it.  Read his column and you will see the journey and how much he wants to help our society.  Going to PicklePalooza, you will support his dream and pave a way to a better reality.

The last couple events I want to touch on briefly are the Bowers Chile Pepper Festival and the Houston Hot Sauce Festival.  Bowers is now in it’s 20th year, and if you go you will see how a small town community can put on one of the most successful fiery events in the world.  They do not need more than an amateur salsa contest and a jalapeno eating challenge to get people to attend in frankly what appears to be in the middle of Nowhere, USA.  The show has grown quite a bit over the last 5 years, expanding from 40 vendors to 100.  The Mennonites have a horse drawn carriage that will take you up to their farm which is less than a mile away.  You can pick your own peppers and tomatoes of just about every variety imaginable.  They give you bags and a map, and you go a pickin’.  In their barn, they have homemade vittles such as spicy peanut butter Rice Krispy treats, pickles, jams, and even spicy ice cream.  Then you add in all the variety of fiery products from all the vendors, and you will be on an endorphin high all weekend.  Oh the flavors and the scents in the air!  Carl’s Kickin’ Chili is my annual go to lunch, and Carl even hooks me up with a frozen quart for my return home.  One of the best spicy chili recipes I have ever eaten.  Bowers after show get together on Friday is also a highlight.  It always feels like a family get together when we sit around and shoot the breeze.  The smaller events tend to bring everyone closer because of the lack of exciting nightlife that the bigger cities have.

Speaking of bigger cities, the Houston Hot Sauce Festival might be one of the most successful outdoor spicy venues in this industry.  The people just love to come out no matter how hot it gets and hot bad the weather is.   The annual event seems to bring in bigger and bigger crowds each year.  Carol Borge is one of the more caring promoters out there, especially with her designated CHILE-DREN area for the kiddies.  She will make sure all the vendors are happy and well taken care of.  I always feel so welcome when I attend her events.  The festival raises money for the Snowdrop Foundation which helps and support families that are dealing with pediatric cancer.  I even bought a ladies hat just to help support the worthy cause.

At Zestfest with Flower Hat from Houston

Yeah that is me.  I hope that does not scare you off in going to any of the events I attend.  I love meeting new people, and I will be at around here and there.  I will be attending the Bowers Festival in 2 weeks, and I will drive all the way from Virginia to Indiana for Open Fields at the end of the month for my last week of vacation.  I just came back a few weeks ago from driving to Chicago for their big event.  I love being in the car and driving, without traffic of course.  It is the month to do it too, with the leaves starting to change and the fall colors making the scenery quite beautiful to behold.  When I hit Open Fields at the end of the month, there will be a coolness in the air, and a reminder that Summer was left behind.  All the chile peppers would have been picked and the canning and dehydrating is nearing completion.  The best month of the year for Chileheads will come to a close, as will Open Fields, but not the memories.  They last much longer.  If you have memories to share, please share them with us.  Photos are welcome and stories even more so.

Our 2nd newsletter is filled with recipes and peppers and hope.  Our special guest, as I eluded to above is Crazy Steve Zielinksi.  That is a man on a mission, and if you like what you read, please tell him in the comments area.  He loves the feedback and to know others out there care about fighting the good fight.  Our newest staff member will be the one and only Bill Moore, and he is going to share with you his top new discovery in the world of spicy products each and every month.  If you know Bill, you know he posts reviews on products everyday, so if he tells you about a favorite of his, then it must be a true standout.  We welcome him to our team.

If you are new to this new newsletter, then I have news for you.  We are about to open your world up to some thought provoking things and make you drool over some spicy food.  Chilehead Monthly has a little for everyone, but if you would like more of something and less of something else, then please let us know.  We want your reading experience to be a pleasant one.  This is a community effort from bloggers like myself to experienced spicy product makers, plus we have veteran chile grower, Jim Duffy with the Pepper of the Month.  So, I hope you like what we have for you in our September newsletter.

Let us educate your mind and tastebuds!


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