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February 2024

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Photo by Lynn Skall: 2021 Cuccui (A unique design is created annually and we can't help but think this years may have been slightly influenced by a popular movie about to drop in three days from this event.)

A Community Celebration: Cambalache 2021

See photo album at bottom of post

Amber and copper hues boldly dappled the mountainsides as the 33rd Annual Questa Cambalache Harvest Festival was celebrated on the first Sunday in October, a glorious autumn day. Held in conjunction with the final day of the Questa Farmers Market, there were the usual Market vendors in addition to artisans, food stations, contests, music, entertainment, and the ceremonial burning of Cucui.

While Michael Rael performed beautiful music in the background, attendees reunited with friends and family as they meandered from booth to booth, drawn in by the colorful fall produce and one-of-a-kind merchandise on display. Leatherworks, woodcarving, knife sharpening, apparel, jewelry, handmade crafts, Market aprons and T-shirts, and Cambalache swag were available to purchase—all this amidst the weekly Farmers Market regulars selling honey, local produce, eggs, coffee, and wellness potions.

The line-up of entertainment was continuous, starting with Michael Rael and including the Chris Arellano and Ivan Gonzales bands. The Questa High School Mariachi Band wowed the audience with their impressive range of local talent and traditional music acumen. The children’s ballet class from Yoga Sala stole the show, as eight young boys and girls, all under the age of seven, danced as butterflies and bumblebees, following the lead of instructor Tuesday Faust.
At mid-day, the Quetta Championship Frito Pie-Eating contest was held, with both a children’s and adult competition.

It is newly named in honor of Quetta Vigil, a local young woman who tragically passed away this past year, who held the world championship record of eating nine Frito Pies in three minutes! A new champion was crowned this year, after an eat-off to break a tie; Vincent Laraza from San Cristobal won the adult division with the consumption of eleven bowls of Frito Pies in three minutes, and Koda Segura, from Questa, won the children’s division (age twelve and under), consuming four Frito Pies in 2-minutes and besting four other contestants.

Courtesy Photo: Quetta Vigil with her First Place winnings from the 2019 Cambalache Frito Pie Eating Contest.

The smoke of the horno and Bubba’s BBQ smoker filled the air as festival goers filled their stomachs with brisket, ribs, and other deliciousness. Evelyn’s Treats served freshly baked goods and a selection of hot favorites, Rael’s and The Coffee House offered up coffee and hot tea, while Vida del Norte Coalition volunteers mixed to order a variety of alcohol-free libations.

The culmination of the day was the customary burning of Cucui, a dastardly looking black creature with sharp teeth and a demonic tongue, constructed by the youth of Vida del Norte. Throughout the day, penas were written on scraps of paper and collected in a box that burned along with Cucui, as is the tradition. All those worries, hurts, concerns, and negative thoughts were released into the nether regions, along with the blazing Cucui.

Photo by Lynn Skall Questa Volunteer Fire Department overseeing the burning of the Cucui this year in the Questa Visitors Center parking lot.

A display of harvest pumpkins and gourds—in the color of the fall changing leaves—were distributed at the end of the day by the farmers as their gift to the community in thanks for sharing in the celebration of Cambalache and for contributing to another successful year of the Questa Farmers Market.