The annual, family-friendly, Oxnard Salsa Festival turns 21 this year, and judging from the salsa (sauce) competition and participating restaurant preview party this week, it has already proven worthy of a grown up toast. Unique to the endless, international salsa circuit, Oxnard Salsa Festival, July 26 & 27, 2014, “celebrates everything salsa -- the music, the food and the dance.” And the new tv-show star, Kitchen Eatery, in friendly, quaint old Oxnard is the perfect place for it.
Also unique and lending it an extra-friendly feeling is that the festival producers are locals, the Oxnard Downtowners, rather than corporate event planners. And they get more ideas all the time.
This year the award-winning, expanded event features Southern California’s most electrifying salsa and Latin bands, non-stop salsa dancing, marketplace shopping, the fiery Salsa Tasting Tent, international foods, an expanded Kids Korner, a recipe contest and salsa dance performances. Festival admission and parking are free. No pets or coolers are permitted on-site. www.oxnardsalsafestival.com
The professional division of the salsa contest (sauce!) provided the first “taste” of festival excitement. It took place at Kitchen Eatery, a Downtown Oxnard restaurant, which was featured on ‘Diners, Drive-ins & Dives’ with Guy Fieri on The Food Network. This year there were 26 entries, 12 judges and seven categories best red, best green, best mild, best medium, best hot, best fruit, best specialty and best overall.
A “people’s choice” winner was also chosen, won by the Le Dolce Vita (Italian) restaurant with their Basil Garlic. Which brings to mind that Salsa is the Spanish term for “sauce,” although in English-speaking countries usually refers to the sauces typical of Mexican cuisine, particularly those used as dips.
Individual category Winners:
Best Green: Vallarta – Habanero
Best Hot: Vallarta -Habanero
Best Red: Vallarta - Molcajete
Best Medium: Vallarta – Molcajete
Best Mild: BG’s Café – Roasted Green
Best Specialty: the Kitchen – Strawberry
Best Jared: Naked Infusion – Ripe Tomato
A preview party followed with what else for a 21st birthday- a casino – and two giant cakes by Vallarta Supermarkets. The restaurant fare was so enticing this year, it generated promises of a visit to just about every one for a whole meal. After all there are over 27 Mexican eateries alone in Oxnard and they just get better and better.
Outside on the patio food was served by participating restaurants. The list: BG’s Café, Cabo Seafood Grill & Cantina, La Vero’s Mexican Restaurant,Fresh & Fabulous Café, Genmai Sushi, The kitchen, La Dolce Vita Ristorante, Otani’s Seafood Restaurant, Sabor, A Little Piece of Heaven, Sugar Beets Restaurant & Bar,Tomas Café, and organic Tequila Alquimia.
El Oaxaco is new to the area and the festival, but already so well extablished they have their own cookbook. Their flavorsome tamales wrapped in banana leaves, southern Mexican style and still very unusual in Southern California.
Non-professional cooks get into the action with the annual recipe contest dubbed The Great Oxnard Salsa Challenge. Judging begins on Sunday, July 27th at 11 a.m. for first place category winners and a ‘best of the best.’.
The festival officially starts with a Friday Night Kick-off Concert (paid concert) on July 25, introducing the Oxnard Salsa Orchestra led by Raul Rico Jr. playing from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.. Come early to dine in downtown Oxnard, or bring a picnic to enjoy al fresco. The gates open at 6 p.m.
Four new bands joins the Festival this year. The Festival Main Stage entertainment runs continuously from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, July 26 & 27. OPA OPA, Sabor Latino Orchestra Yari Morè Band and Conjunto Afro Son. Also playing are Orquesta Tabaco y Ron and The Janeen Puente Orchestra. Granddaughter of the great Tito Puente, Janeen Puente and her high-energy salsa orchestra, perform their original songs and arrangements in a distinctive style.
Salsa Dance Shows include local salsa dance groups perform sizzling salsa routines during the Community Dance Showcase, presented by The Collection at Riverpark. The line-up features performances by Ventura County Dance Company and the Santa Barbara Dance Company, plus the winning couples from the Chinaland Competition. On Sunday, local community leaders are paired up with the region’s best salsa instructors to dance for charity during the festival highlight, Dancing with Our Community Stars Dance Contest & Charity Fundraiser, patterned after ABC’s hit TV show. In the past five years, the fundraiser has generated approximately $450,000.
An expanded Kids Korner with Tortilla Art provides days of kid fun. Oxnard’s own Art & Music Factory allows kids to get creative in their arts & crafts booth, using real tortillas provided courtesy of Mission Foods. Kids get moving with a variety of inflatables, a giant maze and slide. This year, a mechanical jet ride and interactive games have been added. Older kids can” conquer” a climbing wall
The Festival Marketplace Food & Shopping features a wide assortment of international foods and shopping opportunities in the Festival Marketplace, filled with close to 150 food, craft, gourmet sauce and retail exhibitors.
Inside the big-top Salsa Tasting Tent, the Festival will showcase 22 different exhibitors dishing up close to 60,000 samples of all six categories of salsas.
This includes local restaurants, gourmet salsa purveyors, specialty grocers and
Mexican markets and gourmet salsa vendors will dish up close to 60,000
Tent admission is $5 per person, which includes freshly made Mission Foods tortilla chips and 10 tasting tickets. The adjacent Salsa Cantina provides an ideal “cooling off” stop for burning tongues, with ice-cold beer and wine margaritas for sale. New this year, Re4x Goliath Wines will be sampling samples of their reds and whites.
The 21st Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival is presented by the tireless Oxnard Downtowners, and sponsored by Gold Coast Broadcasting, Bud Light, Mission Foods, Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau, Ventura County Star, plus more.
Located just 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Santa Barbara, Oxnard Salsa Festival is accessible by train, car, or bus. The Oxnard Transportation Center is conveniently located just three short blocks from the Plaza Park festivities. For Festival information, call 805-247-0197, or visit www.oxnardsalsafestival.com
The coastal location makes for an ideal summer getaway with beach, bike riding at the harbor, sport fishing, golf and even the Dallas Cowboys Training Camp nearby. There are plenty of hotel options. For information, please visit www.visitoxnard.com or call the Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-2-Oxnard.