Santa Barbara Locals Participate in 25th Oxnard Salsa Festival Competition

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Santa Barbara Locals Participate in 25th Oxnard Salsa Festival Competition
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Judges Taste Testing Salsa Recipes to Select a Winner

By Bonnie Carroll

I was honored to serve as a judge for the "Great Oxnard Salsa Challenge" on Sunday, July 29 during the 25th Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival, along with Andrew Salinas, Chief of Police, Port Hueneme Police Department, Dyanne Van Der Kamp, Virginia and Ed Espinosa and six additional judges all from Oxnard.” 18 amateur salsa chefs entered the challenge and brought 16 ounces of their salsa to the festival on the morning of July 29, where the panel of judges blind taste tested the entries.

Salsa categories were Best Red, Best Green, Best Fruit/Specialty, Best Mild, Best Medium, Best Hot and the Judge's Choice Winner (for best of the best). 10 judges taste tested 18 different salsa submissions. The Judge's Choice Winner received $100. Other first place category winners received a festival "goodie bag." Amateur Salsa Winners were announced on the main stage before the “Dancing with our community stars" competition.

Judges Choice Amateur Recipe Award Winner Karen Silvers of Chatsworth

The Amateur Recipe winners were Carolina Castaneda from Pasadena (best red, best green and best hot salsa), Lorenzo Carrillo from Oxnard (best medium salsa) and Karen Silvers from Chatsworth (best specialty/fruit, Best mild). Silver's family recipe for mango salsa also received the Judge's Choice Award.

It was a privilege to meet Rosemary McKenzie, an original founder of the Oxnard Salsa Festival, who was having a great time watching the dancers in the VIP section. I was very surprised with how much larger the festival was this year, and congratulated the Festival Director Kellie Meehan who responded: “It's very exciting, we are very pleased our Salsa Festival is growing, and this year we have many new vendors, sponsors, non-profits and community residents participating.”

The Festival's Professional Salsa Recipe Contest took place July 12 at La Dolce Vita in Oxnard's Heritage Square where 11 judges sampled 17 different salsas from nine restaurants and one market. The Winners included Best Mild Salsa - La Dolce Vita, Best Medium Salsa and Best Red Salsa - Sharky's Fire Roasted Salsa, Best Hot Salsa and Best Specialty Salsa - El Taco Loco's Special Hot Salsa - Best Green Salsa – BG's Café House Green Salsa, Judges' Choice Award (best of the best) - El Taco Loco's Special Hot Salsa. 2018 Festivalgoers sampled these and other salsa's during the Oxnard Salsa Festival with freshly made Mission Foods tortilla chips. Chef Michelle Kenney of La Dolce Vita, a favorite restaurant of mine, won best Mild Salsa.

“Dancing with our Community Stars” Alex & Diana Tere (front right) and Maureen Shea & Chuy (front center)

“Dancing With Our Community Stars” competition was sizzling and winners were Alex Vega for Men's Division: Alex was dancing for non-profit Ventura County Community Development Corporation (VCCDC), and his dance instructor/partner Diana Tere was born & raised in French Polynesia Tahiti and moved to Santa Barbara 25 years ago. She has provided Salsa & Bachata Dancing throughout the community and for the last 13 years at the Santa Barbara Dance Center. She started her own Salsa Dance Team Emotion Aumiri, and recently created a Brazilian Samba Dancing Group with her Partner Romy.

The Women's Division winner was Maureen Shea and her partner instructor Chuy Rodriguez. Maureen is a two-time world champion boxer, commentator & TV personality. She was Hilary Swank's sparring partner in Swank's Oscar award-winning role in Million Dollar Baby. She danced in support of The City Center in Oxnard, where she shares her hope, and strength with survivors of domestic violence.

The Oxnard Salsa Festival is presented by the Oxnard Downtowners. 2018 Sponsors included Nissan (presenting sponsor), BudLight, Gold Coast Broadcasting, MissionFoods, Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mission, McDonald's and other community partners. Look for stories on the event in Bonnie Carroll's Life Bites News, and in Food & Beverage International. Details on the Salsa champions can be viewed at

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