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The 14th Annual Margarita and Salsa Festival returns to Waco

Aug. 13, 2009

By Derek Smith

Late August will once again be bringing the sounds of live Texas country music and the smells of fresh onions, cilantro, limes and more to the Heart o' Texas Fairgrounds for the Margarita and Salsa Festival. Kevin Fowler will headline the musical portion, with the popular judging and people's choice contests pitting restaurants and individuals against each other for food and drink superiority highlighting the early portion of the evening. The August 29th event is once again put on by The Arthritis Foundation, and executive director Rachel Martinez said it's their most vital fiscal event of the year.

While a portion of the funds goes to the national Arthritis Foundation, Martinez says most of it funds local projects like exercise classes, outreach, medical advice, brochures, and advocacy for people suffering from arthritis. It's a fun way to raise funds for a serious problem.

They raise this money not just though ticket sales for the concerts, but in entry fees from local restaurants and individuals eager to prove that theirs is the best margarita and salsa, or even guacamole or queso. Attendees can go around sampling the food and beverages, and putting money in the jar of their favorites. Judges will hand out rankings, and there is a people's choice award as well. This year they've also added a new event with an element of showmanship.

But it's still the food and beverages that leave people pining for the next year even as the current event is ongoing. Last year, Elite Circle Grill won the queso portion of the contest. Skyler Bell leads me through the kitchen, which is still moving despite being the middle portion of the afternoon. He said the secret to their queso success is pretty simple.

Bell said it's certainly a point of pride to win, and said that the Elite Circle Grill, celebrating their 90th birthday in Waco, appreciates being able to work with an organization providing service locally.

Following the food and judging, the music will begin. Cory Smith, The Randy Rogers Band, and Cross Canadian Ragweed will play their unique brands of Texas country leading into the headlining Kevin Fowler. Tickets are $27 in advance, with a $5 increase at the door. Again, the event takes place Saturday August 29th, the Arthrits Foundation outreach continues year-round. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

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