Mad Dogs and Austinites
Welcome to the Heat
You know what they say about only mad dogs and Englishmen being out in the midday sun? In Austin, Texas, in the hottest part of the day in what is often the most searing month of the summer, each year now for almost two decades (next year's event will be the 20th), tens of thousands of people have turned out for a food festival! What everyone is there for isn't an antidote to the summer heat – not ice cream, exotic fruit dishes, or sassy new drinks. It's hot sauce in the middle of the summer.
The British, who were usually on imperialistic missions, were not only out in the hottest time of day but were often inappropriately dressed for the climate of the countries. Here, dressed how they want, thousands and thousands show up for the pleasure of tasting different hot sauces. Wandering about alone, in couples, in small groups or in much larger ones, with children racing among them, folks are here for fun. There's a buzz to the crowd; people are drinking, talking, enjoying music and one another, all in the name of tasting hot sauces!
Let me clarify a previous sentence: It's hot sauce in Austin in the middle of the summer – not just hot sauce but hot sauce.
Ideally, this publication comes out of and is for the community of our readers, which is, has to be, and has always been our community. Anything we do is part of what we do all the time – it fits in and makes sense in the flow of the life of The Austin Chronicle. When we started the Hot Sauce Festival at Robb Walsh's suggestion years ago, we started it because it sounded like it would work and it was such an organic fit with the overall sensibilities that are the Chronicle.
Too often, recognition or some kind of authored sensibility is ascribed to only one individual. This happens with me all the time. I have both been given credit and heaped with blame for things with which I've had almost no involvement. In reality, almost any time you see a name in this paper or a person as a representative of the Chronicle, there are many, many people behind them. We will always be grateful to Walsh for his inspiration and his leadership of the Hot Sauce Festival. But the reason the event has remained so relatively consistent and always rings true is the incredible week-in and week-out work of so many people here at the Chronicle. In particular, I have to note Food Editor Virginia B. Wood; Food writers Claudia Alarcón and MM Pack; Erin Collier and Elizabeth Derczo, who logistically make this happen; Amy Marsh from Ruby's BBQ; volunteer coordinator Jillian Lobstein; tasting tent coordinator Debra Cerda; check-in and judges room coordinators Robbin Kohn and Rolee Rios; and head hot sauce runner Mike de los Santos, all of whom do an enormous amount of work to ensure the success of this event, along with Dan Hardick, Logan Youree, and the dozens of staff and volunteers who pitch in.
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