Sunday in Arbuckle, residents lined up in Balfour park for a chance to decide for themselves which of the locals really know their way around a large pot filled with pork and oil.
The Spring Fiesta is an annual event, put on by Arbuckle Revitalization Committee every first Sunday in May. This year it fell directly on Cinco de Mayo, a holiday celebrating Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Once the judges were settled, the line of hungry people moved through a row of booths. Each person received a hearty helping of hot corn tortillas, Mexican rice, and beans from El Jalisience, a restaurant in Arbuckle. Gabriela “Gaby” Rosas, who had spent 11 years as an employee, is now owner of the establishment. Rosas brought the side dishes to compliment the carnitas.
Three cash award categories were judged: best carnitas, best salsa, and best booth. Judges had their hands (and mouths) full with a serious decision to make. To avoid bias, judges were given samples identified only by a number and were asked to rate appearance, smell, and taste.
“Every year we bring at least one new judge with qualifications of knowledge of carnitas and salsa,” said Theresa Deardorff, with ARC.
“We look for prominent members of society as well,” Deardorff added.
A check in the amount of $300 was made payable to the team at Lambirth AG with Ignacio Ascension, who brought 20 years of experience. Ascension saw to the pork shoulder to be seasoned and left to simmer in oil for hours until it was falling apart with a buttery texture. Second place went to Alsco-Geyer’s booth, and the team from Grindstone won third place.
Best salsa went to Jake Miller of Jake’s Garage, making it his fourth time placing and third time walking away with first prize. Miller attributes his win to his experience, “eight years, at least.”
Grindstone took second place for their salsa, and Wild Hogs team took third.
Best decorated booth was a tie between California Family Foods and Cortina Hulling and Shelling.
Jaqueline Gonzalez, ARC president, doled out the winning checks but Alsco-Geyer, Grindstone, and California Family Foods all graciously donated their checks back to the organization.
Pierce High School students sold beverages, and many adults sought reprieve from the afternoon heat in the shade with a frozen margarita or cold beer from the adult’s beverage booth.
DJ Ruben filled the air with music. While in line for food, people were able to browse the wares of local businesses or learn about services offered through agencies of Colusa County.
Plenty of people showed up for a lazy Sunday afternoon but it was not overcrowded. Regarding attendance, “it was good, but it was a little light,” Gonzalez said. ■