Indio’s International Tamale Festival returns for its annual holiday traditions


Marcela Carrillo

Photo Courtesy of The Chaparral/ Marcela Carrillo. Tamale Festival map.

The twenty-ninth annual Indio International Tamale Festival has returned in 2021 after being on hiatus for nearly two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tamale Festival regularly begins on the first weekend of December. This year it landed on Dec. 4 and 5 in Indio, Calif., from 10 a.m. through 7 p.m.

With the return of the Tamale Festival, entertainment has been implemented and installed for valley residents and travelers to enjoy. There were car shows, performances from local valley residents and artists seeking to expand their platforms, music, art, fan-favorite carnival rides and numerous tamales to taste.

Although festival organizers decided not to host their festival in 2020, that did not prevent them from planning their upcoming celebration in 2021, as California began to re-open earlier this year.

The Tamale Festival selected new entertainment to be added. They added luchador wrestling, highlighting six overall matches from professional luchador athletes. They also added a roller rink accompanied by music while providing rollerskates for children and adults, encouraging them to dance and have fun inside the rink.

Photo Courtesy of The Chaparral/Marcela Carrillo. The world’s enormous bounce house produced by Big Bounce America. (Marcela Carrillo)

Local resident, Daisy Lopez, 19, spoke about her experience within the festival and how COVID-19 came into play.

“I’ve been coming almost every year, I grew up here, and I’ve enjoyed spending the first week of December here with friends and families,” Lopez said. “However, this year, it felt a slight off; it felt different.”

The Tamale Festival brought the Guinness Certified world’s biggest bounce house, provided by Big Bounce America. The bounce house was over 13,000 sq ft and 32 ft tall, with multiple forms of entertainment inside: slides, confetti canons, a personal DJ performing inside and much more.

Lopez enjoyed the new entertainment installed this year but noted the differences from past festivals she attended. “I believe the bounce house was an excellent addition as it created room for new projects to come next time around,” she said. “However, the new entertainments made me aware of the change, and this time around, the festival looks incredibly different, and I’m not so sure 7-year-old me would appreciate that.”

Performances were showcased around the festival, as they prioritized having three stages located around the Civic Center. Various local artists and performers were given the opportunity to showcase their talent. The Fantasy Springs stage was the most prominent, holding an enormous crowd of music, entertainment and food lovers. “I find it pretty special that we get to enjoy this every year,” Lopez said. “They give enjoyable performances and encourage locals to participate.”

While the Tamale Festival is promptly known for tamales, they additionally had different food vendors. Different cuisines were offered from Hispanic cultural foods, such as tacos, burritos, quesadillas and Aguas Frescas. “I’ve always loved to see the confusion on people’s faces when I tell them that the Tamale Festival sells other foods than tamale’s,” Lopez stated. “They serve fantastic food, and whether it is a tamale or a taco, you will be satisfied.”

However, as the festivities began, one remaining factor was COVID-19. Last year, 2020, the Tamale Festival postponed its festival until 2021, and now that 2021 has arrived, COVID-19 is still a residual threat. “Many individuals did not have their masks on, but as it was an open-spaced festival, we were not crowded to the point of exhaustion,”

Lopez said. “There was a bit of concern that loomed over me because I don’t know all of these individuals and whether they are vaccinated or if they have tested negative for COVID-19.”

Nonetheless, Lopez believes that every individual should attend the Tamale Festival at least once in their lifetime. “I would recommend this festival to anyone living in the valley and outside of the valley,” she said. “It is a nice celebration before the winter holidays, and there is a little something for everyone here.”