LAS CRUCES — There will be no Whole Enchilada Fiesta this year, the event’s board of directors has decided.
“After 34 years and varied circumstances, including, but not limited to, the retirement of Roberto Estrada’s making of the Guinness Book of World Record holder ‘The Whole Enchilada,’ the 2014 board of directors for the fiesta has voted to retire the event,” Sonia Saldaña, president of TWEF Board of Directors, wrote in a news release.
Estrada, 78, who has cooked the enchilada for 32 of the 34 years, told the fiesta’s board of directors in February of his intention to stop making the record-breaking enchilada.
“It’s time to stop,” he said at the time.
The fiesta, held annually in September, had received recognition as one of the top 100 fiestas in the country and as one of the three largest events in New Mexico.
Raul Pacheco, a lifelong Las Cruces resident, said before last year’s fiesta that TWEF has provided a lot of memories.
“It’s one of the things that makes Las Cruces special to all of us who grew up or have lived here for any length of time,” Pacheco said last September.
TWEF included a parade, entertainment, vendors, games, and in recent years an enchilada eating contest and a 5-kilometer run, as well as the centerpiece attraction — Estrada’s record-setting enchilada, 10.5 feet in diameter, served to anyone who wanted a piece.
The making of the enchilada began in 1980 when Estrada, owner of Roberto’s Restaurant and Roberto’s Mexican Foods, was approached by the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce to add his cooking skills to the event that was then called “Vaquero Days.” Except for a rain storm in the late 1990s and a hiatus in 2012 to upgrade equipment used to cook the enchilada, Estrada has made the giant enchilada every year.
“The Whole Enchilada Fiesta celebrated Southern New Mexico’s food, fun, people and traditions through its rich cultural diversity,” Saldaña wrote. “For the past 34 years, the three-day event attracted community members and business people within NM, other states and different countries. It provided a quality experience for people of all ages through its involvement in the community and volunteer opportunities.”
According to the event’s website, enchiladafiesta.com, TWEF was scheduled to take place Sept. 25-27 this year.
Since 2006, TWEF had been held at the Hadley Complex, along a portion of Hadley Avenue. Before that, the event was held in downtown Las Cruces. Also, in 2006, the event for the first time charged a fee — $2 per person — to enter. By 2013, admission prices had risen to $5 per person with additional costs to enter other areas, such as the beer garden. Last year, guests over the age of 12 paid a flat-fee of $10, which got them into special venues as well.
“The intent of the fiesta has always been to raise funds and give back to the community,” Saldaña wrote. “Therefore, after all financial commitments have been fulfilled and assets have been liquidated, all remaining funds will be dispersed to community nonprofit organizations.”
Nonprofits that would like to be considered for TWEF proceeds should sent a letter of interest to: THE WHOLE ENCHILADA FIESTA, INC., P.O. Box 8248, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88006-8248.
Send us your memories
The Sun-News will be collecting photos and memories from The Whole Enchilada Fiesta’s 34 years in Las Cruces. Share your stories and pictures with Digital Editor Lucas Peerman at email@example.com. Title the email “TWEF MEMORIES”.
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