24th annual Bowers Chile Pepper Festival brings the heat

Event continues Saturday in Maxatawny Township

MAXATAWNY TWP., Pa. - From Serrano to habenero and cayenne to Carolina reaper, the heat is on at the annual Chile Pepper Food Festival in Berks County.

"Peppers [are] global and we brought it here and we've done well with it," said Christopher Markey, a festival co-founder.

The celebration of bursting spice and flavor, with music and fun thrown in, is expected to draw more than 12,000 people. Next year, it will be celebrating its 25th anniversary.

"Who would think that peppers would be that big of a deal for 25 years?" said Markey.

The chile pepper festival isn't just about the heat; Carl Bossler of Carl's Kickin' Chili knows it's flavor people want by the cup, or the quart.​

"Everyone tries to get the hottest pepper. We try to get the most flavorful chili," said Bossler. "It's got heat, but it's also got sweetness that cuts through the heat."

Many here wear their love for peppers on their sleeve. Karen Stober wears it everywhere else, with custom pepper earrings, necklace and clothing.

"I just love peppers," said Stober. "Not the super hots, more like up to medium, because I like to be able to taste my food."

Stober makes the pepper pilgrimage every year from Warren County, New Jersey.

"I've been coming here for over 20 years," she said. "It's worth it. It's fun."

The festival will continue Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. at Bill DeLong Memorial Park in Maxatawny Township.

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