The festivities kicked off early on Friday night

ATASCADERO—The streets around Atascadero’s famous Sunken Gardens were lined with delicious tamales, long lines, and smiling faces for the eighth annual Tamale Festival. The festival took place on Saturday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. But the fun didn’t stop there. The festival and Cinco de Mayo weekend officially kicked off on Friday, May 3, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and concluded with a fireworks show.

“We are really starting to work on Tamale Festival Weekend, making it really a Friday/Saturday thing,” said Director of Community Services and Promotions Terrie Banish. “That not only helps people who want to sell tamales and sell all of the thousands that they brought but also [helps] our hotels and tourism. Then for our community, it’s kind of like Friday night is locals night.” 

This year, around 30 tamale vendors came out for Friday night to get a head start on selling their yummy tamales of all kinds early, but it was just a small glimpse of what was to come on Saturday. 


“There was like 150 vendors. That’s a lot more than in the past,” added Banish.

Last year, there were closer to 100 vendors filling the Sunken Gardens, which shows that the festival is picking up speed. In fact, it brings people in from all over the Central Coast and beyond. 

Cambria resident Maureen Fox was at the Tamale Fest for the first time this year, and it was her love of tamales themselves that brought her to Atascadero.

“I love tamales. I used to live down in San Diego. We used to go to a [tamale] fest in Escondido,” stated Fox.

In fact, one of the tamale vendors was one of her favorites at the Escondido festival. She didn’t know they would be in Atascadero, but said it was a pleasant surprise. Of course, there’s also lots of local vendors as well.

“It’s become a staple of our city, and it definitely gets all of the merchants out,” Banish said. “All of your Mexican restaurants, Mexican cuisine that we have. A lot of local restaurants are participating.”

It isn’t just about the tamales at the festival; on both Friday and Saturday, entertainment lined the streets. The 90’s Babiez performed on Friday night before the fireworks, and Saturday boasted a full lineup. The Famous Dancing Horses and ranchero artist Manuel Enrique and his horse were there. Mariachi Voces Tapatias, La Marcha Sound, and Mexicanisimo Mariachi Band all took to the stage. Paso A Pasito Dance Group and Paso Ballet Folklorico danced in front of City Hall. And the Steppin’ Out Band, Brass Mash Band, and Dante Marsh & The Vibe Setters also performed. 

Just like in past years, a group of esteemed members of the community taste-tested both traditional and gourmet tamales, and the winners of the Best Tamale Contest were then announced. This year, the award for Best Overall Tamale went to Award Winning Tamales.

This year’s traditional winners were Award Winning Tamales in first, Super Tamales in second, and La Luz del Mundo from Paso Robles in third. 

Gourmet tamale winners were La Luz del Mundo from Visalia in first, La Luz del Mundo from Oxnard in second, and Beth’s Tamales in third.

AJ Fragoso and Justin Turner won first and second place in the 12 and over Tamale Eating Contest, while Roman Leon and Gabby Castaneda came in first and second in the 11 and under category.

The contests concluded with the adorable chihuahua and pet costume contest. First place and Best Overall went to Phoebe and owner Vikky Mullin. Second and Best Costume went to Maude and owner Ryan Duclos. Third and Best Lookalike went to Pepper and owner Liam Shutt. An Honorable Mention went out to Gidget and owner Carla Garcia. 

Friday night’s festivities were also held in conjunction with the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s Sip and Shop, where participants could buy tickets for wine pours to drink while shopping at local merchants. Over 400 tickets were sold for the evening.

“I love all of the energy from the community,” said Kim Wybenga, the workforce development manager for the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce. “Everybody’s just having such a great time. Families are out together. It’s awesome.” 

The ninth annual Tamale Festival will be back on Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, 2025. For more information on the festival, go to

Featured Image: The streets were filled with entertainment at the eighth annual Tamale Fest. Photo by Rick Evans.