60,000 Spicy Samples: Oxnard Salsa Festival

Tunes and tasty dishes star at this longtime local favorite.

FAME ON EVERY LEVEL: It's the rare food that is also something else that is not a food. Likewise, it is the rare dance type or music genre that shows up in the world of cuisine. Heck, it is the rare anything that is able to break out of being a sole entity and cover various platforms simultaneously and very, very well. Salsa does just that, and how you take your salsa may determine what just came to mind when you read the word. Did you think of dressing up and going to shake it down at your favorite club? Maybe of your favorite band? Or did you think of a hot dish brimming with pico de gallo, extra chiles? It's all three, wonderfully and equally, which is one reason we're grateful that the long-running Oxnard Salsa Festival doesn't break down categories and separate salsa from salsa from salsa.

TWENTY YEARS: The tunes, dance, and food part marks two decades this year from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, July 28. Sounds made for dancing'll fill the better part of every afternoon; Orquesta Tabaco y Ron, Rumbache, and The Janeen Puente Orchestra are on the schedule among many others. (And, let us verify and confirm: This is a festival where people really get out and move with equally enthusiastic partners. Lingering on the edge of the dance floor is rare here.)

THE FOOD END OF THINGS: Salsa is the star -- spoiler alert -- and a recipe challenge is one of heat-nice hearts of the weekend. Best green, best red, best mild, medium, and hot, and, hooray, best fruit, are all categories. Over 150 vendors'll be on the grounds in Downtown Oxnard's Plaza Park, but if you're just coming to sample a few piquant blends, you can, again and again until you hit 60,000 or so: That's the estimated number of salsas that will be available for tasting in the Salsa Tasting Tent. It's five bucks to get into the tent and admission to the general fest is free.

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