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Tamal Festival welcomes back thousands, tamale contest gets most entries ever

Tamal Festival welcomes back thousands, tamale contest gets most entries ever
Posted at 9:12 AM, Dec 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-05 11:22:37-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For 16 years, the annual 'Tamal & Heritage Festival' has brought people from all over to try the best tamales in town.

Organizers say this year’s tamale contest had more entries than ever before. Booths lined up, each with their own take on the traditional tamale. The vendors included families, local restaurants, and supermarkets.

“Definitely gets our product out into people’s hands,” said Robert Salcido, store director of Food City in the Spectrum.

Some came to enter the tamale contest, with a top prize of $750.

“This is the first year we entered," said Richard Varela, member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe. "Our tamales sell so quick that there’s no time to stop by and enter the contest.”

But even if you don't win anything, everyone has something to gain at the festival. Many groups sell food to fundraise for future events, or to promote their business.

“As a restaurant we got the financial hit and things like this help boost us, and let people know that we’re still in business,” said Abel Leon, an employee at Perfecto’s Mexican Restaurant.

Vendors say they make $4,000 to $7,000 at the end of the day.

“We get a majority of our fundraising done here,” said Adriana Valencia, a tamale vendor.

This year’s event was especially important to make up for funds lost after last year’s cancellation.

“It was difficult we just thought about this coming year we’re going to have to double up or try to fundraise and look to other places,” Valencia said.

But the festival isn't just about food.

“It's a community festival it brings all kinds of different people together to celebrate all the different tamale heritages,” Salcido said.