The show celebrates its 25th edition from March 1st to 3rd, 2013, at the Sandia Resort and Casino. There are more than 200 exhibitors, over 1,000 products, and big, big crowds: some 17,000 people attended last year’s show.
Obviously, anyone considering attending will want to have some affinity for spicy food. There are hundreds of different hot sauce vendors that set up shop at the show, as well as those that make salsa, barbecue sauce, mustards, marinades and dipping sauces. There are also booths dedicated to chile apparel, chile books, labels (for those who make their own sauce) as well as closely- and loosely-related products – southwestern art, margarita mixes, wine and spirits, and so on. Exhibitors offer samples of their wares and products for sale.
This is also a good place to find out who’s won the annual Scovie Awards – these are named after the Scoville Scale, which is used to measure heat in chile peppers. Some 800 products compete in a blind tasting award. See the list of current winners , including the grand prize winner, Lusty Monk’s “Burn in Hell” Chipotle Mustard. (It’s worth noting that award-winner aren’t given their status on their sheer ability to produce pain. Consider Lusty Monk’s special “note to chile heads” on its site, a disclaimer that the product is “not so hot that you’ll be running to the water cooler, we concentrated on flavor rather than scovie units. So it’ll raise your temperature, but won’t raise any blisters.” )
The awards, and indeed the whole show, were a project of Dave DeWitt, a man who has been referred to as the “Pope of Peppers”. He’s written many, many books on chile peppers, from every conceivable angle -- growing chile peppers, identifying chile peppers, the use of chile peppers African, Asian, Caribbean, Mexican cuisine, as well as books about hot sauce, salsas, and the like. (A particularly handy favorite is his 2005 Spicy Food Lover’s Bible.) He also founded Chile Pepper magazine, and maintains the Fiery Foods and Barbecue Supersite. Read more about Dave DeWitt. DeWitt and his wife Mary Jane Wilan founded the show in 1988. In its first year, the show had 37 vendors.
In addition to the vendors, there are cooking demos by cookbook authors throughout the show. The 2013 edition will include several opportunities to learn how to make hot sauce at home, tequila demonstrations, and a grill-off barbecue competition.
The action kicks off on Friday afternoon, March 1st, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and then continues for the weekend, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. At the door, admission for children under 6 is free, for everyone else it’s $15 and it’s cash only. You can order tickets in advance using a credit card via Ticketmaster, and save a little money: tickets are $10 in advance for the six and over set. Attendees can also access a special rate at the hosting Sandia Resort and Casino; in 2013 it’s $165 a night for a room with a king bed or two queen beds.