Festival delivers south-of-the-border flavor
As the table was prepared for the salsa judging contest at Saturday's De Soto Cinco de Mayo Festival, Johnson County Commissioner George Gross had instructions for his fellow judges.
"There's only four of us," he joked. "I don't want any tie votes."
Gross' reference to the Johnson County Commission's two 2-2 votes on Oz Entertainment Co.'s redevelopment plan for the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant proved prophetic. Gross and co-judges De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson, Councilman Emil Urbanek and Councilwoman Linda Zindler needed an extra round of taste tests to pick a winner in the commercial category when their first score cards produced a tie.
The extra round might have been necessary on paper, but the judges' reaction on a bowl of orange-colored salsa indicated a clear difference between the two finalists.
"That one there it's not hot going down," Urbanek said of the orange salsa. "It's hot after you swallow it. Then, it burns your tongue."
When the overtime round was totaled, Pancho's of Lawrence prevailed over Carlos O'Kelly's of Lawrence.
Festival committee member Felix Briseno watched the judges with a special interest. Her entry in the individual competition earned second place.
"It's an old family recipe handed down from my mother," she said, declining to share its ingredients.
"It's a pretty good turnout," she said of the revelers who clogged the gym floor and filled about half of the bleacher seats. "Everybody's having fun."
While all the food vendors were happy with their business, the lines were longest at the booth of Irma Ramirez of Kansas City, Kan. The reason for the line was simple, her daughter Maria said.
"I guess they think the food's good," she said.
Food wasn't the only south-of-the-border flavor treating those at the festival, as large helpings of Mexican culture entertained those in attendance.
Mariachi Habanero from Topeka entertained from the stage and gymnasium floor. The band was periodically joined by a group of teenage girls who danced to its tunes, and on one occasion, sang.
Another group of teenage girls dressed in more traditional Mexican garb performed folk dances on the stage. The younger group of girls followed them on stage to perform two additional dances.
"We practiced about three weeks," said Michelle Carrillo, a third-grader at Starside Elementary decked out in a green dress borrowed from a friend.
The festival started with a parade down 83rd Street. Organizer Pat Atchison said the 30-minute parade had about 30 entries.