The National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show returns to deliver the heat - Albuquerque Journal

The National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show returns to deliver the heat

Val Romero, of Tucson, Arizona, “the King of BBQs” pours samples of his sauces for attendees at the 32nd Annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show in 2020. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Dave DeWitt really enjoys the heat.

As the mastermind and creative force behind the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, DeWitt is always trying to up the ante with each show.

After a year away due to the pandemic, the show is back at Sandia Resort & Casino beginning Friday, March 4. It will run through Sunday, March 6.

“After missing a year due to the pandemic, people are ready to spice it up once again,” DeWitt says. “We look forward to this year’s show being hot, spicy and safe.”

Each year, DeWitt adds some flavor to event. When he’s not planning for the show, he is a food historian and one of the foremost authorities in the world on chile peppers, spices and spicy foods.

He’s also written more than 50 books on fiery food history, cooking and cultivation.

But it’s the Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show that has his heart.

Venceslado Romero samples hot chile from Santa Fe Seasons while attending the 32nd Annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show in 2020. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

“I’ve been doing shows for 40 years and I’ve never missed one,” he says. “We’ve put the events on in blizzards and all types of things that interfere with shows. I’m lucky that the exhibitors this year stuck with us. We lost about 10 of them, but we’re going to put on a great show.”

DeWitt says hundreds of exhibitors are bringing their best fiery gourmet foods, sauces, spices, sweet-heat treats and rubs to the showcase.

The event will feature more than 1,000 different products from the U.S. and around the world for tasting and purchase.

This year’s event will be the 33rd time DeWitt has presented the show.

“We have a great track record,” he says. “This is a popular show for the whole state. People really like it and want it.”

The first National Fiery Foods Show was held in 1988 with 47 exhibitors and 500 attendees.

In 2002, Barbecue was added to increase the depth and breadth of the show.

As the show grew, Dave and Mary Jane DeWitt moved it from hotel venues to the Albuquerque Convention Center, where it eventually filled the 60,000 square foot Southeast Hall. In 2006, the show moved to a destination venue, Sandia Resort & Casino, and in 2008, Dave’s niece, Emily DeWitt-Cisneros, joined Sunbelt Shows as associate producer and sales director.

A large variety of hot sauces made by Durango Artisan Foods is seen at the 32nd Annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show in 2020. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

The appeal of the show is so broad that it’s difficult to pinpoint demographics. Attendees come from all over the country, exhibitors from all over the world. It is estimated that at least a third of all exhibitors sell out of all the products they bring to the show.

Today, the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show features 170 exhibitors and attendance of more than 20,000 people over the three days of the show. National and worldwide media, including the New York Times and National Geographic, have covered the show.

DeWitt says audiences are drawn to the event foremost because of food.

“In this case, food is a universal thing that brings people together,” he says. “If you think about family and food, that’s one reason we come together. That fact that we all like spicy food and it’s very unique to New Mexico, it helps bond people. While they are at the show, they like to try new stuff.”

DeWitt says his niece, DeWitt-Cisneros, now runs the day-to-day operations for the show.

“She does all the heavy lifting,” he says. “She came on board to keep the show running. I’m not bowing out anytime soon, but it’s in good hands for the future.”

Per current New Mexico Department of Health directives, the mask mandate at Sandia Resort & Casino ended as of February 18, 2022. The National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show will not require masks or proof of vaccination. However, all show attendees are welcome to wear masks if they so choose.

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