Every year chili-heads gather in the end all be all of pepper conventions for the Midwest. This year was the 3rd year for Jungle Jim’s Weekend of Fire and show organizer Jim Beckett (with the help of Debbie Artinger) were out to make it the best one yet.
I started my trek from Cleveland, Ohio to Fairfield, Ohio at 10AM on Friday and landed at my destination around 2:30PM. Hungry and in desperate need of stretching, I stopped off at the local microbrewery (BJ’s Brewery) for a sandwich and pint. After refueling, I booked my hotel room and headed over to the show to get my vendor badge, meet and greet other vendors, and to dig into the open bar (the main reason why I left on Friday instead of Saturday…the things I do for free booze) and appetizer that we were told were going to be there.
Debbie gave me the low down on what we were going to be doing this year at the bloggers booth. We had sauces, salsas, t-shirts, and cigars that were donated to us and all the proceeds go to two charities (Jim Campbell’s Step Up for Charity and Autism Speaks) and then there was the Salsa Competition that we were accepting the votes for.
The final four contestants for the Salsa Competition.
5PM rolled around and that was the start of the open bar (which was now a cash bar….) and appetizers graciously provided for us by our hosts. After swapping a few stories we all headed to the local chain store wing house for pints and food. A few hours later I was in the hotel room attempting to sleep over the sounds of the motor boat sleeping in the bed next to mine.
A quick shower the next morning woke me up nicely and I was off to the breakfast that was provided by Jungle Jims. 10AM rolled around and the flood gates opened, the 2009 Weekend of Fire was now officially open for business and I had my camera and tongue ready for some serious pepper related mischief.
Joe Levinson (left) and Al “Buddah” (right) at the Bloggers Booth.
Nice collection of sauces.
There were a lot of old faces, some new faces, and a few first timers to a show on the vendor side of things. But what was a constant was everyone had some great products to share and some interesting presentations as well. Of coarse, Defcon Sauces out did himself this year. He both debut a new outfit and a new wing (pun intended) of his booth. Aptly named “The Pain Center”, this warning sign encrusted, black light lit, Attention Deficit inducing spot of evil was the hang out spot for when you wanted to get hit with a sample of his legendary Defcon ZERO extract sauce.
Defcon’s New Booth.
Defcon’s new look. Complete with logo encrusted boots, laser pointer gloves, and two different colored eyes.
One of the many black lights with mascots and toxic waste clean up crew figurines.
Joe (aka Dyce) getting ready to sample Defcon ZERO in the Pain Center.
Our favorite chili makers, Cin Chili, were in attendance this year and had out for sample their microwavable chili packets which were fantastic (review to come soon). I’m still just blown away by the beauty of their chili awards they had on display.
I also got to meet some people that I knew from The Hot Pepper.com forums. Marco from Marco’s Not Quite Famous Salsa and Cajun Heat. That’s one of the fun things about these shows, you are able to finally put faces to screen names and products.
Marco in the flesh.
New comers Cajun Heat were proudly displaying his girlfriend….err….hot sauces and powders.
Some eye catchers this year was the strange concoction that CaJohn was serving with his Frostbite (I’ll give you a hint, it starts with “M” and ends with “argarita mix”), Road Kill Salsa, new bottles by Torchbearer Sauces, and some new labels for Mild to Wild Pepper Company.
That’s soooo not a natural color….
Best label of the show. Love the buzzard pouring the hot sauce.
SUGAR SAUCE RULES!!!
The night was starting to come to a close so it was time to count all the ballets for the Salsa Competition. Around 250 people sampled the four salsas and voted for their favorite….who was going to win? The answer….right after this commercial break. Nah, I wouldn’t do that to you. The winner by leaps and bounds was Chuck Evans of Montezuma Brand for his Smokey Chipotle Lime and Garlic Salsa.
No hanging Chads here, this is old school voting.
Chuck Evans holds his ballot box high.
And thus ends the first part of my multi-part review. Tune in tomorrow for my riveting tale of the pain and carnage that was the Defcon Wing Eating Competition. Be sure to bring a hanky….you’ll need it.