Silt pursues peck of palatable peppers |

Silt pursues peck of palatable peppers

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

SILT, Colo. ” Peggy Swank is on a mission for jalapenos.

Fears some of the peppers are linked to salmonella now threaten the jalapeno-eating contest at the upcom-ing Silt Heyday festival Aug. 2.

Swank, an organizer of the festival for about 15 years, said after hearing about the bad-news peppers, she asked City Market if they would have jalapenos and was told “no.” She said the Rifle City Market has sponsored the event in previous years but won’t be able to this year. She doesn’t want to skip the contest.

“I think it would be missed,” she said.

Trail Daugherty, a spokesman for City Market and King Soopers stores, said all jalapenos were pulled from the stores’ shelves last Tuesday.

“We do not have an estimated day that they will be back in,” he said. “We do have one local grower that started harvesting today, so we’re hoping that we will begin to see some in each of our stores as early as Wednesday, but it could be Thursday. … But those will be limited amounts.”

Agricola Zaragoza Inc., of Texas, announced July 21 it was recalling jalapenos distributed since June 30 because of potential salmonella con-tamination. The Food and Drug Administration later said contaminat-ed jalapenos came from Mexico.

But Swank has a plan. She expects to find out if anyone can get jalapenos from local farm markets by Thursday or Friday. “I’ve got some friends going down to Grand Junction,” she said. “We did some calling around last week, and we’ve got a supplier we think can get some local jalapenos.”

The jalapeno-eating contest has been a fixture of the festival for at least seven years. It’s done around 6 p.m. usually between musical acts when the festival is winding down from the after-noon, Swank said.

Normally around six to eight people compete. Each competitor is given four or five jalapenos, and the first one to swallow them all is declared the winner. Swank said organizers try to keep some milk on hand for jalapeno eaters to cut the burn.

“Four or five of them is quite a bit to eat,” Swank said. “Most of them end up with red eyes and sort of tears drip-ping down their face. Five jalapenos ” if you’ve never tried eating jalapenos that weren’t roasted or pickled or something ” five jalapenos can be pretty hot.”

A few years ago, Swank said, a national television station called with interest in the contest. Organizers recorded a video of the festival and sent it to the station, but Swank said she doesn’t think it ever aired.

One year, a 15-year-old boy got his mother’s permission to compete in the usually 18-and-older contest, but he didn’t win.

“He’d been practicing all summer,” Swank said.

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