Atascadero celebrated their 5th annual Tamale Festival over the weekend, welcoming thousands to the city over two days for some incredible food, live music, dancing horses, and performances by local dance troupes.
2020 was the first year the Tamale Festival expanded to a second day, giving locals and visitors another chance to get their favorite tamales and explore the festival.
Friday night was the “new” night, which had 20 of the tamale vendors participating, live music, lots of fun things for the kids, and a fireworks show! The event started at 5:00 p.m. with a kick-off by the Mayor, and jumped right into live music that you could hear throughout the festival.
It turned out Friday was a great night to be at the Tamale Festival because we actually got to try some of the vendors that otherwise have mile long lines on Saturday, and the fireworks show was a really fun addition to the event.
Saturday the full Tamale Festival kicked into high gear. All 85 vendors were there (30 selling tamales), and there were performances by local Mariachis and bands, ballet folklorico by local dance troupes, dancing horses, all the fun stuff for the kids, a beer garden, a tamale eating contest, a even a chihuahua costume contest!
At the festival we got to see every type of tamale; the vast majority of vendors sold the traditional beef, chicken, pork, or cheese tamales, but others had wild combinations like turkey with cranberry sauce (it was delicious!), or used new ingredients in a familiar shell, like tri-tip instead of shredded beef.
Several vendors also had dessert tamales with flavors all over the map. One sold a chocolate tamale that looked like a huge brownie in tamale form, while others sold flavors like strawberries and cream, lemonade, and mango.
Many of the vendors were local, but some came from as far away as Santa Ana and Oxnard, bringing their award-winning tamales to our very own backyard.
Atascadero’s annual Tamale Festival is a free, family friendly event that takes place every January in the heart of their downtown. Learn more about Atascadero by visiting our page dedicated to this incredible city in north SLO County, and make sure to put this event on your list of things to try when you’re here!