December 4, 2018

2018 International Tamale Festival in Indio

I was excited, once again, to be guiding one of DayTripper Tour’s annual pilgrimages to the International Tamale Festival in Indio.   This year’s tour was very popular as we were one of two buses, totaling nearly 100 passengers! One of my favorite stops when we head north along I-15 on a Saturday is the bustling Temecula Farmers Market.  Every Saturday morning round about 80 farmers and vendors gather in historic Old Town Temecula to offer a wide variety of farm fresh, organic and conventional fruits and vegetables. Featured are many unique plants and flowers, and this time, I purchased a container filled with various types of lettuce that re-grows after you pick it.  We’ll see how well it works!  The market also has many other items including, baked goods (my weakness), olives and olive oils, cheeses, kettle corn, tamales, handmade soaps, and lotions.  A small group of local artists have available some of their works. I always tell my tour groups to be sure to make a stop at the booth that gives out the free samples of various flavors of butter brickle.  One of my other favorite things is the dried blood oranges.  Both are so amazingly good!

Tamale Festival

After our shopping and break stop in Temecula, we headed to Indio and the Tamale Festival.  This spectacular festival started in 1992 with an idea by Dave Hernandez, a member of the Downtown Indio Merchants Association.  Since then, it has grown into one of the largest food festivals in the United States.  Held the first weekend in December, the Food Network recently ranked the festival in the top 10 “All-American Food Festivals” in the nation! The festival also made the Guinness book of records in 1999 for producing the world’s largest tamale, which was over a foot in diameter and 40 feet long.  Additionally, it was named the “World’s Largest Tamale Festival” with 120,000 in attendance in 2000.

This year’s festival had six stages for music and dancing including Mexican Folkloric dancing, one of my personal favorites, along with Carnival rides and games. Other highlights included a tamale eating contest, “Best Tamale” award competition complete with a panel of judges and of course a parade. I am happy to report that one of the tamales that I tried (and loved) won 2nd place in the traditional commercial category.  I tried the beef/pork combo tamale from Nana Chuy’s and it was delicious.  It had a nicely flavored masa with lots of well-spiced filling.


Traditional Commercial

1st Place – Hot House of Tamales – Pork with red sauce and banana leaf tamale

2nd Place – Nana Chuy’s Handmade Tamales – Beef/pork tamale

Gourmet Commercial

1st Place – Que Mami Organics – Pineapple coconut tamale

2nd Place – Casa de Silvia – Chili Relleno tamale

Best Overall Tamale

Hot House of Tamales – Pork with red sauce and banana leaf tamale


Some of the unusual tamales that I saw featured at this year’s tamale festival include: Shrimp and chorizo tamales, potato tamales and chocolate tamales.

Hadley’s Fruit Orchard Remains an Iconic Roadside Landmark between L.A. and Palm Springs

We left the Tamale Festival mid-afternoon and made one of my favorite stops at Hadley’s Orchard Store. Seeing a need for a nutritious snack food to sustain hikers in the neighboring San Jacinto Mountains, Paul Hadley originated the widely imitated “trail mix.” The rustic stand eventually became the largest store of its type in the country and developed into a multi-million dollar retail and catalog business.

In July of 1999, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians bought the Hadley Fruit Orchard stores and mail order business and built a brand-new and much larger store. One of the “must-dos” here are the date shakes.  They are yummy.  Speaking of dates, Hadley’s still has a wide selection of fresh dates, including the Mejool variety which is the largest and most popular date. One of my favorite items that I always recommend to my tour groups is the California Orange Marmalade Jam.  It is so good and you’re lucky if you can find it on the shelf.  And, of course I also love their trail mix, which is very high quality and features several different varieties.

All too soon, it was time to head for home with lots of happy memories of our day at the International Tamale Festival.


Mark Jacobson
DayTripper Tour Manager

Tour: Tamale Festival
Date: December 2, 2018


Categories: Blog