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Salsas battle online in State Fair competition

The State Fair’s Battle of the Salsas has moved online this year. Voters are asked to weigh in on Facebook, and finalist salsas will be evaluated by a panel of judges. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The State Fair Battle of the Salsas is on – online, that is.

In a partnership with New Mexico Department of Agriculture, one of the State Fair’s most popular events will be held, though formatted for the age of coronavirus.

The event will be going on over the next four weeks, during which time the top 24 New Mexico salsas, which have been randomly seeded in brackets, “will advance much like the single elimination (basketball) tournament of the Final Four,” said NMDA spokeswoman Jenny Green.

Every other day, the NMDA and the State Fair Facebook pages will each offer two salsas from which to choose. Visitors vote to determine which of the two salsas advances to the next bracket.bright spot

A panel of judges, consisting of television personalities from local news stations, will do a blind tasting of the final four during a Zoom meeting Sept. 23. The results will be announced Sept. 25, Green said. The top three winners will receive a cutting board etched with the logos for the Battle of the Salsas, the State Fair and NMDA, she said.

The Battle of the Salsas, which began 16 years ago, remains one of the most popular State Fair events, fair spokeswoman Oona Gonzales said. “People would walk by and become active participants in a taste test. It’s basically a people’s choice award. And who doesn’t like salsa and chips?”

To be eligible for the competition, the salsas must have been commercially produced in New Mexico, be shelf-stable and have been available for purchase in the New Mexico State Fair Country Store.

When management at the State Fair received word that the fair was to be canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions, “we wanted to do as much as we could for the small businesses that participate in the fair every year and that are sold at the Country Store, which features New Mexico products, and is how a lot of these products get out in front of a bigger audience,” Gonzales said.

“It’s kind of a fun and creative work-around to get us through all the craziness of the pandemic,” Gonzales said. “And even though we’re not able to celebrate the State Fair in person this year, this is a good way to come together and celebrate things that are very New Mexico.”

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