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Page Two: Sloganeering Not Necessary

The Hot Sauce Festival returns in a new venue for its 22nd year

By Louis Black, Fri., Aug. 24, 2012

The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival this Sunday, Aug. 26, now in its 22nd year, has a new home. It has moved to Fiesta Gardens (2100 Jesse E. Segovia St.) after long being headquartered at Waterloo Park. Down by the river, the new location should prove to be much cooler and more hospitable for the hot sauce lovers that always show up for the event.

Even though there are few Austin enthusiasts as ardent as I am, I still find myself hesitant at some of the town's boosterism. I've always been nervous about Austin being the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world." Without diminishing the music scene in any way, that has always seemed like a title that should be bestowed, not self-anointed. It does indicate, however, that the town's civic leaders take music very seriously, which is, in and of itself, a positive thing.

Along the same lines, "Keep Austin Weird" has always seemed a bit of a contradictory expression. Isn't intentionally being weird not really that odd? Certainly this community relishes, honors, and cherishes weirdness, privileging the unique, but does it really need to be admonished to do so?

The annual Hot Sauce Festival has long stood in testament to just how strange a place this Austin is. Late every August, traditionally one of the hottest months of the year, many thousands and thousands of Austinites attend the event. Under the often near-broiling afternoon sun, they gleefully mingle in celebration of a wide range of hot sauces.

Certainly, as in all festivals in Austin, there is also great music. But the many different spicy sauces available for sampling from individuals, restaurants, and companies (all prepared in professional commercial kitchens) are the heart and soul of the festival.

All morning and afternoon, and into the very early evening, the masses wait in line to taste as wide a variety of hot sauces as possible. Easily one of the Chronicle's most important events, the essence and dynamics of the Hot Sauce Festival naturally express Austin's eccentric, loving, and lovable character in a way sloganeering only suggests.

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