For the Southwest Washington Tamale Festival’s inaugural year, organizers expected maybe 500 people to show up. They saw upwards of 2,000. The event was so popular, in fact, tamales began to run out halfway into the day’s festivities.
“It’s good for us, but not good for those who came,” said Michelle Bart, President of National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation, who was helping with the event. Given how popular the festival turned out to be, Bart said they would likely have to close up shop early. Only one vendor had supplies left by Saturday afternoon. “Next year we’ll be bigger and better, and we promise we’ll have more (tamales).”
But the popularity of the festival is welcomed by its organizers, who had a bit of a rocky start launching the event to begin with. The festival was originally scheduled for October, but was ultimately canceled due to bad weather. Organizer Carmen McKibben, President of Southwest Washington League of United Latin American Citizens, said even though it was disappointing, it was the right decision.
The festival was designed to bring people together and celebrate different cultures, McKibben said. Food is a perfect opportunity to do just that, she added.
Even though vendors ran out of supplies before day’s end, the festival will be able to foster further community engagement through its contribution to a youth scholarship fund. McKibben said the proceeds of Saturday’s festival will help sustain LULAC’s youth program.
“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. “Embracing the community.”