Whether you think of music, dancing or tortilla chips when you hear the word salsa, July’s Oxnard Salsa Festival in central 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 farming countryside.
The two-day party was first celebrated in 1993 as a way to honour Oxnard’s cultural and agricultural roots. Today the festival still takes place at Plaza Park in historic central Oxnard, with live salsa bands, dancing lessons, and plenty of chances to taste salsas and hot sauces.
Indeed, if your preferred form of salsa is edible, visit the tasting tent and try the concoctions from roughly a dozen chefs, cafés and grocers; your $5 admission fee will get 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 sweetcorn and desserts made with Oxnard’s signature crop of strawberries. There’s also a children's 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 in several ways. Spread out a blanket at the concert venue for just $5 per person (children 10 and under are free), or book a place at a reserved table or in the Club Salsa section closer to the stage. Check the schedule’s line-up for musical acts and dancing lessons, as well as for events like Dancing with the Community Stars, where local celebs are 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.'