Sweet Sixteen SalsaFest to spice up Valley

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Eastern Arizona Courier Article by Laura Jean Schneider

Salsa makers are invited to demonstrate their culinary prowess at the 16th annual NatureSweet SalsaFest on Sept. 23 and 24.

Local fame and some fortune may await.

“We’re still looking for salsa makers, so please go to our Facebook page and sign up,” Torey Cranford, business owner and Graham County Chamber of Commerce events chair said Thursday. “We’re looking for amateur salsa makers, (and) we’re looking for some makers who think they’re a little professional.”

“(If) you think your salsa is the best, come and show the community,” Cranford said.

Vance Bryce, executive director of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce, said the festival “is a celebration of all things in the Gila Valley community and Graham County community.

“When you buy chips to taste the salsa all that money goes to a scholarship to Eastern Arizona College through the Safford Lions Club,” he added.

SalsaFest sponsor Kip Kempton of Kempton Chevrolet, said the annual event galvanizes Graham County while providing an opportunity for visitors to see what the area is all about.

“It brings the community together in an event that’s non-political,” he said. “We just get to be us. … (It) gives us an opportunity to celebrate good salsa and chips.

“The Chamber of Commerce does an outstanding job with this event,” Kempton continued. “As a small business owner, you want to support people who are creating small businesses.”

The local booths and venders showcase the “amazing creativity” of Graham County, he added.

Kempton’s preferred salsa temperature, on a scale from 1 to 10?

“I used to think I was a solid 10,” he said laughing. Now, with “some humility,” he puts himself at a 7.2.

“I’ve had some really hot salsa,” he said. “A 10 would probably kill me.”

Festival sponsor and Bayacan spokesperson Heather Dukes said the company was “motivated to sponsor SalsaFest because it’s a great opportunity to support the community and take part in an event where we can meet and interact with Graham County residents and local businesses.

“It’s the people that make SalsaFest unique,” Dukes continued. “This is Bayacan’s second year sponsoring this event and my second year attending. And it leaves me with a great deal of respect for the people of Graham County. This is a community that values family, helping one another and supporting local businesses.”

Dukes dished on her salsa preferences: “Last year, my favorite salsa was from La Paloma. I prefer my salsa to fall in the range of 3 to 7 on the spicy scale,” she said. “I need flavor and spice, but not so much that it causes me to sweat (or cry) as I eat it.”

“NatureSweet has sponsored this event for many years, and we want to continue to support the community,” said spokesman Skip Hulett. He said the level of heat in his preferred salsa is about an 8 of 10.

SalsaFest schedule

SEPT. 23

10 a.m. Fine art sale presented by Art Guild of Southern Arizona at the Safford Theatre

5 p.m. Opening ceremonies

National anthem by Tracy Brown

Taste of the Trail opens

Kempton Chevrolet Stage live music from Mariachi Luz de Luna and Raymond Gomez

Bud Light and Estrella Jalisco beer garden, Ponderosa Aviation food court

Fine art sale closes

6 p.m. Restaurant salsa competition judging

9:30 p.m. Last call

10 p.m. After parties at Sarah’s Bull Pen, Shane’s Place and Trailhead Hideaway

SEPT. 24

7 a.m. Car show registration at MVD parking lot

8 a.m.

Transcendence Massage yoga

Safford Lions Club Salsa Challenge chef’s meeting

9 a.m.

Car show presented by Audio Visions T Mobile and Custom Upholstery Services

Chihuahua races

Zumba

10 a.m.

Gila Cheer AllStars

Ponderosa Aviation food court

Bud Light and Estrella Jalisco beer garden

Fine art sale presented by Art Guild of Southern Arizona at the Safford Theatre

10:30 a.m. Extreme Martial Arts

11 a.m.

Safford Lions Club Salsa Challenge, presented by Michelle Wilson Farmers Insurance

Safford Dance Academy

Noon Raymond Gomez on the Kempton Chevrolet Stage

1 p.m. Heart and Soul on the Kempton Chevrolet Stage

2 p.m.

Award winners announced

Happy and the Ghosts on the Kempton Chevrolet Stage

3 p.m.

Lucky J’s on the Kempton Chevrolet Stage

Car show ends

4 p.m.

Heart and Soul on the Kempton Chevrolet Stage

Loud Speaker Experience presented by Ice King

Dummy roping presented by Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition and Jimmy Pearso

5 p.m. Happy and the Ghosts on the Kempton Chevrolet Stage

6 p.m.

Lucky J’s on the Kempton Chevrolet Stage

Dummy roping ends

7 p.m. Heart and Soul on the Kempton Chevrolet Stage

8 p.m.

Kempton Chevrolet presents the XS Band

Loud Speaker Experience ends

Fine art sale ends

9:30 p.m. Last call

10 p.m. After parties at Sarah’s Bull Pen, Shane’s Place and Trailhead Hideaway

Contact Laura Jean Schneider at LauraJean@eacourier.com


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