Salsa tasting competition squelched by storms

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The festivities of the second annual salsa tasting on the Greencastle square ended early as storms spoiled the fun.

The competition was part of First Friday, an effort to have a community-wide event on the first Friday of every month to unite the town on the square. The event was also sponsored by Main Street Greencastle, a newer not-for-profit organization dedicated to rejuvenating downtown, promoting the small businesses on the square and preserving historic buildings.

However this year, Tami VanResselaer, who coordinates First Friday with Gail Smith, owner of Almost Home, changed a few things up.

In addition to adding more water, which was sponsored by McDonald’s and available for attendees, VanResselaer said that there was a new category of entrance.

“We added the spirit of salsa,” she said.

This category is based on the creativity of the contestant: they have to decorate their booth in an attempt to get votes based on its visual appeal.

Don Julio’s provided chips for the event, but each contestant had the ability to provide their own chips.

“The chips I have may not complement their salsa,” VanResselaer said.

But for VanResselaer, it’s all about bringing the community together.

“This is a place where DePauw kids are all here, the people way out in the country are all here and the people in town are here,” VanResselaer said.

Admission was $10, which covered the cost of a t-shirt. T-shirts were made on-site in an effort to prevent waste.

Local vendors had the opportunity to set up booths or tents to sell items. Jared Jernagan, assistant editor of The Banner Graphic, was one such vendor, selling vinyl records turned into bookends and bowls by melting them down.

“This is a great place to try out your crazy dreams,” VanResselaer said of Jernagan’s table.

Maxine Neeley, who entered the competition last year, dragged her daughter, Gail Patrick, and her granddaughter, Courtney Williams, into the competition.

Patrick, who works in Roy O. West Library, said that the decision to enter for her and Williams was last minute, but that it worked out well for them to all enter the competition.

“We all like different things,” Patrick said. “I like it spicy.”

Patrick made her salsa as a combination of three different recipes. She took what she liked from them to create her own recipe.

But a lot of it seemed as if it came from guessing.

She added lime pepper in the salsa because it sounded good.

“I’ve never made salsa before at all,” Patrick said.

The three generations of women also entered the spirit of salsa competition, but all of the decorating credit goes to Williams.

Unique to the competition was Dessa Leonard’s watermelon-based salsa, instead of the traditional tomato-based salsa. She entered the competition after seeing the ad in the paper asking for entries. The recipe was a family recipe that included watermelon, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and green bell pepper.

Her stand had a shark carved from a watermelon and a watermelon-themed table cloth.

Junior Jazmin Lesane, who volunteered for the event as part of her Bonner Scholar placement, thinks that events like this are important for breaking down stereotypes.

“It makes me appreciate my time in Indiana,” Lesane, a native to Brooklyn, said.

Tracy Hernandez’s pico de gallo won the Judges’ Favorite award. She has been making salsa for about 20 years.

For the second year in a row, Joe Cash won the People’s Choice award, in which those attending the tasting received one ticket to vote for their favorite salsa at the end of the night.

Sue Matson won third place, which is where her salsa placed last year. She seemed surprised that she won.

“I just use fresh veggies,” she said.

Overall, she hopes that more people will enter.

“I’d tell people to enter because it’s fun,” she said.