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Plenty of Spice

Salsa Festival will feature hot and tasty food as well as music, crafts and contests.

July 29, 1999|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A serene tree-lined town square in downtown Oxnard will be transformed into a sea of colorful sights, sounds and tastes when the city hosts its sixth annual Salsa Festival at Plaza Park this weekend.

The event, which includes salsa-making contests, salsa tasting and dancing to salsa music, traditionally draws more than 10,000 sets of taste buds from as far as San Diego and Bakersfield.

Parking and admission are free for the festival, which will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the corner of 5th and B streets.

"The idea behind the festival was to bring people into downtown Oxnard, so they could see what a great place it is," said Gary Blum, president of the Downtown Oxnard Merchants Assn. "It also seemed like the natural thing to do, because we grow onions and habanero chiles and we have the greatest Mexican restaurants."

The event came to life after festivals celebrating Mexican Independence Day and Cinco de Mayo moved out of the downtown area to other locations in the city, Blum said.

The park sits only blocks from several Mexican restaurants that have made dining in downtown Oxnard a daily routine for many people. But beyond that, restaurant owners from throughout the county will have booths at the festival, Blum said.

The highlight of the weekend will be the salsa tastings.

At the center of the park beside a pagoda, visitors can pick up a dish of freshly made tortilla chips and taste hot, mild, fruity, red and green salsas, Blum said.

As a souvenir, Oxnard Salsa Festival Salsa, bottled for the event by CKC Foods, will be available for $5 a bottle.

Other types of salsa, including African, South American and Caribbean, will also be sold.

For people who make their own, spots are available in the salsa contest to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Blum said. Entrants should arrive at the park by 10 a.m.

The competition will include divisions for amateurs and professionals, and each division will have eight categories, including most unusual and judge's choice.

Amateurs must bring one gallon of their salsa for judging, and professionals must bring five gallons, Blum said. Entry fees are $10 for amateurs and $50 for professionals.

Several prizes will be awarded in each division, and the remaining salsa will be made available to the public to taste.

The festival will include 60 booths featuring arts and crafts and such food as barbecue, Chinese dishes and fish and shrimp tacos. There will be a beer garden and seating for up to 300 diners.

On a stage at the north end of the park, several bands will perform salsa, Latin jazz and Cajun-style music. Activities include dance exhibitions, a salsa dance contest and games for children.

All in all, said festival spokeswoman Ruth Bernstein, the festival showcases area restaurants, artisans, food and commercial vending.

Or, as it's been promoted: It'll be the hottest event in Ventura County this weekend.

DETAILS

The sixth annual Oxnard Salsa Festival runs Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Oxnard's Plaza Park at 5th and B streets. Free. Call 247-0197 for more information.

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Tip of the Week: More than 200 sailboats, sport fishing boats, yachts, electric boats and other water craft will be on display and available for touring during the fourth annual Ventura County In-the-Water Boat Show today through Sunday at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard.

There will be food and music, and every boat displayed will be for sale, said event spokesman Ray Hebert. Vendors will be selling equipment, accessories and fishing supplies.

The show runs from noon to 7 p.m. today and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call the Channel Islands Visitors Center at 985-4852.

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