By Brooke Curley
SAFFORD – More vendors, more music, and great salsa. The 2017 SalsaFest event that has turned into a tradition brought out the entire Gila Valley to share in the talent and sunshine.
The 11th annual SalsaFest was sparkling with some spicy hot salsa Friday and Saturday. According to Chris Gibbs, the Chairman and organizer of the event, roughly 120 volunteers with the Lions Club helped make the event a success. The Graham County Chamber of Commerce worked closely with the Lions Club, and vendor and visitor participation were up as there was new life breathed into the festival.
“The SalsaFest 2017 saw six brand new food vendors and an increase in 80 marketplace merchandise vendors,” Chamber Director, Patrick O’Donnell said. “The partnership with the Lions and the Chamber of Commerce has really brought this event all the way down Main Street. . . This event is as strong as it is because of the manpower provided by the Lions Club.”
Starting on Friday afternoon, and kicking off again Saturday morning, the SalsaFest dazzled its visitors. Filling Main Street, the SalsaFest car show featured a gathering of classic vehicles as well as bicycles and motorcycles. Live dancing and musical performances began Saturday morning at 10 a.m. The Cole Trains, and the PB&H band performed, as well as Safford Dance Academy and EAC Spanish Fusion Dancers. Multiple other groups also performed.
The main attraction was the salsa, but the dancing, live music, beer garden, and the vendors all contributed to the festival. The celebrated condiment was everywhere, created by numerous teams competing in the Salsa Trail Challenge. The Salsa Trail Challenge demanded that competing teams must include pineapple, black beans, and serrano chilies in their salsa recipes. The team from Mechy’s restaurant won the Salsa Trail Challenge. The Judges’ First Choice was awarded to Roy and Margaret Vidales.
Almost every aspect of the SalsaFest grew to bigger and better proportions, including the Color on Main chalk art competition. Multiple seasoned artists applied this year, making it a tough judgment as to who would bring home the prize.
Jenny Howard, the organizer of the chalk art contest, told Gila Valley Central that the competition is all about expression of artistic talent. However, Howard later explained that she was happy with the changes in this year’s fest.
“Just the fact that they express themselves is what it’s all about,” Howard said. “ The fact that they (SalsaFest organizers) brought everything down this way and spread it out, there’s just so much more this year, and I hope it continues.”
Every year the SalsaFest is presented by a combination of local organizations, including the Lions Club and now the Chamber of Commerce. Backing the fest is a slew of local sponsors that work within the community to bring the festival to fruition every year.
This article has been updated to clarify the Safford Lions participation in the SalsaFest.