By Leonardo Romero
La Habra Journal
La Habra’s Recreation Division held its third annual Tamale Festival on Sunday at a different and much bigger location from last year. The festival’s committee led by the city’s recreation manager, David DeLeon, decided to move the event from the La Habra Community Center and it’s parking lot to the street Euclid between La Habra Boulevard and Lambert. The street was shut down for the day and was filled with over 10,000 people that came to buy tamales from the 16 different tamale vendors present.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better situation, and even though we had some inclement weather we still had a great crowd,” said DeLeon.
This year’s live entertainment came from two different stages, which included the community stage and the main stage. The community stage located in Brio Park featured various dance and choir performances, and once the performances finished attendees were able to take a hands on tamale making course sponsored by Northgate Gonzalez Market for free. The main stage located in Portola Park presented performances from artists including Grammy award winning Mariachi Divas, and also hosted churro eating contests and the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
This year La Habra resident, Sharon Webster, attended the festival, and when she went around asking people which tamales were the best she was told to look for the longest line.
“I’ve made tamales before and it’s a long process that could take all day,” said Webster. “I’d rather just come out and buy a couple dozen.”
The festival held contests for best salsa, best dessert tamale, best tamale, and judge’s favorite. San Fernando Valley resident, Veronica Reyes, took this year’s best dessert tamale trophy with her vanilla and Nutella tamale. Anthony Navarro’s green salsa won him the best salsa category, and Brianna Sanabria took home the judge’s favorite trophy with her red salsa tamale.
The owners of The Two Tamales catering company, Gabe and Gail Garcia, won the best tamale category with their green chile tamale and cheese, potato, and chorizo tamale.
The couple has been married for 44 years, and Gabe Garcia has been making tamales for over 35 years. Their tamale company offers traditional, vegetarian, and gluten free tamales with dough that contains no lard.
“This festival is family oriented, fun, well organized, and I’m definitely coming back next year,” said Gail Garcia.
Children were able to enjoy the Play Matters Kids Zone, which featured various carnival games, train rides, a rock wall, and jumpers. Wristbands were sold for $10 that allowed the owner unlimited access to every game and attraction.
The La Habra Art Walk Association had their own section at the festival with over 25 artists showcasing and selling their artwork. Their section also featured artwork from local students. According to the association’s executive director, Michelle Bernier, she asked the artists to demonstrate their art to those in attendance by actually working on a piece throughout the event.
“We try to create neat and unique things that you haven’t seen in La Habra,” said Bernier. “We’re trying to create a culture that will help younger ones grow creatively.”
The city’s Recreation Division received a $96,000 seven-year grant from Orange County Transportation Authority that allowed for the use of a shuttle system at this year’s festival.
People had the choice of parking at the La Habra Marketplace, Sonora High School, or La Habra High School and were picked up by an OCTA shuttle that took them to the festival. DeLeon expects to use this shuttle service for events such as the Citrus Fair, Corn Festival, La Fiesta, and next year’s Tamale Festival.