Whether you think of music, dancing, or tortilla chips when you hear the word salsa, July’s Oxnard Salsa Festival in downtown Oxnard invites you to turn up the heat, as they say, in celebrating all three of these popular staples of Latin culture against the backdrop of the Central Coast’s farm country.
The two-day party was first celebrated in 1993 as a way to honor Oxnard’s cultural and agricultural roots. Today the festival still goes down at Plaza Park in historic downtown Oxnard, with live salsa bands, dance lessons, and plenty of chances to taste salsas and hot sauces.
Indeed, if your preferred form of salsa is edible, go to the tasting tent and try the concoctions from roughly a dozen chefs, cafés, and grocers; your $5 admission fee gets you 10 tasting tickets and a big bag of tortilla chips. To cleanse your palate, check out the offerings in the food court pavilions, with carne asada tacos, tamales, empanadas, roasted corn, and desserts made with Oxnard’s signature crop of strawberries. There’s also a kids’ zone with tortilla-based crafts, a variety of inflatables, a rock-climbing wall, and a bungee-bounce.
You can get close to the live music and dancing a few different ways. Lay down a blanket at the concert venue for just $5 per person (kids 10 and under are free), or book a spot at the reserved table or Club Salsa sections closer to the stage. Check the schedule’s lineup for musical acts and for dancing lessons, as well as for events like Dancing with the Community Stars, where local celebs get paired with top instructors. In all of the music areas, you can buy beer or margaritas and try your moves out on the sprawling dance floor.
“It’s a joyful experience and you can’t help but move to the music,” says festival director Kellie Meehan. “The dance floor is packed with dancers—from novice to expert—and all are having a blast.”