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Oxford festival celebrates hot sauce

Annual event is Sept. 11

Posted on August 30, 2021

Wide Awake Wilson

OXFORD — Hot pepper sauces aren’t for everyone, but clearly enough people enjoy them to warrant an entire festival and bragging rights for winning the North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest to be held this year on Saturday, Sept. 11, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Oxford.

Billed as a “smoking hot family-oriented day,” the day features not only a hot sauce contest, but also a classic car show, local talent on a community stage, kids’ activities, food trucks, breweries and wineries, retail and craft vendors, performances by the Love Tribe Band and the Carolina Soul Band, and the popular hot pepper eating contest.

Although vendors from around the country can sell their sauces at the festival, only North Carolina grown and bottled pepper sauces can enter the hot sauce contest.

“Our hot sauce contest is marketed to get pepper growers in North Carolina to enter,” said Rebekah Olivares, downtown event coordinator for Historic Downtown Oxford. “Entrants must raise their peppers in North Carolina and bottle them in North Carolina.”

What started as a local store owner promoting N.C. hot sauces at her store 14 years ago has become a festival drawing 15,000 visitors in 2019, with 41% of those being first time N.C. Hot Sauce Festival attendees.

Although the emphasis is on pepper-based sauces, the contest also includes a barbecue sauce category. The hot sauce category is divided into three sub-categories: mild sauce, hottest hot sauce and verde hot sauce. The barbecue sauce sub-categories are mustard-based, vinegar-based and tomato-based.

There is a sauce for everyone, to which Olivares can attest.

“My whole desk is full of sauce bottles and has been since July,” she said.

For more information about the N.C. Hot Sauce Contest 2021, visit nchotsaucecontest.com.

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