10-year-old Rylee Clonts answers the SalsaFest challenge

10-year-old Rylee Clonts will make her special salsa for all to taste as a first-time competitor at SalsaFest this weekend. - Contributed Photo

SAFFORD — Rylee Clonts proves the old adage that it’s not work if you do what you love.

Clonts will be the first 10-year-old competitor in the 16-year history of SalsaFest when she prepares her special salsa this weekend.

“I always liked salsa since I don’t know when, but I always loved salsa,” she said. “My mom taught me how to make it and I just love it.”

Clonts has some experience making her salsa for large groups, routinely making it for her family and for parties, but this will be the first time she has to make 5 gallons at one time.

To ensure everything gets done in the allotted time, Clonts is enlisting the help of her two sisters, ages 8 and 13, and mom, Jenny, during Saturday’s preparation.

Clonts wouldn’t divulge her recipe, except to say, “I have one secret ingredient and it’s love,” and when asked what she’d do with the $1,000 first prize if the judges named her salsa the best, she responded, “I’m only doing this for fun.”

Each salsa will be rated by a panel of judges as well as by the general public. The winner of the judge’s vote will get $1,000, with $500 for second and $200 for third. The People’s Choice winner will receive $500, with $200 for second and $100 for third.

There’s also a third way to win cash, by decorating the maker’s station and dressing up during the competition. Winner of the Presentation Award will receive $200, with $75 going to second place and $50 to third.

All participants will receive a $50 gift card to Thriftee’s to offset grocery costs.

The NatureSweet SalsaFest will take place Sept. 23-24 at Fireman’s Park in front of Safford City Hall, and includes free live music on the Kempton Chevrolet stage, the Bud Light/Estrella Jalisco beer garden, Chihuahua races, a car show, food vendors and more.