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The downtown Woodburn event features salsa competitions, food passport handout

LINDSAY KEEFER - The Downtown Plaza is ready for Taste of Woodburn.Get a taste of the food, music and sights of Woodburn with the first-ever Taste of Woodburn event this Saturday and Sunday in the Downtown Plaza.

The idea for an event like Taste of Woodburn has been mulling around in the brains of several in the city.

"(We) had heard about it being done elsewhere, and we always wanted to do a Taste of Woodburn, but we've been challenged with lack of resources and momentum," Economic Development Director Jamie Johnk said about her discussions with Community Services Manager Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez.

"We went to different restaurants and got the same dish and noticed all the differences depending on the region (represented by the cuisine)," Gutierrez-Gomez added. "It's about those different flavors, and that's the concept behind Taste of Woodburn."

So when the Woodburn Tourism Advisory Committee formed last summer, the idea that had never before gained traction was brought up.

"And they were like, 'Why don't we do it? Let's stop talking and let's move forward,'" Recreation Services Manager Jesse Cuomo said. "That's what the TAC did and we thought it was a great way to bring people to this amazing town."

The plaza, which was recently decorated with brand new banners that illustrate the many elements of Woodburn (agriculture, Hispanic and Russian cultures, and rich history), will host a handful of food and craft vendors, live entertainment from nine different bands, and a couple salsa competitions — for both the food and the dance style — from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The salsa food competition will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, and is open to anyone, whether you're a professional chef or you just cook for fun. Contestants are asked to bring at least a gallon of salsa; tortilla chips and utensils will be provided. The judges will award prizes to first-, second- and third-place winners, who will be announced at 4 p.m.

The salsa dancing competition will be Sunday and starts out with a salsa performance at 4 p.m. After the performance will be a lesson in salsa, merengue, cumbia and bachata dance, and then the competition will commence while the Portland-based band Dina Y Los Rumberos performs Cuban and international music. Winners will be announced at 6 p.m. and first-, second- and third-place prizes will be awarded.

Prizes for both competitions will be provided by downtown Woodburn-based Ani's Party Supply.

To participate in either competition, or to volunteer at the two-day event, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-980-6322, or visit www.travelwoodburn.com.

Vendors at Taste of Woodburn include Woodburn-based Real Mexican Food catering service, Mega Foods and El Mercadito, and regionally-based Tropical Paradise, Taqueria Martinez and Mark Cuomo's Italian food. The businesses in Metropolis Marketplace next door will also be open. There will also be face painting, crafters and other vendor booths on hand.

"We extended the opportunity to all (Woodburn restaurants), but not everybody is able to take food on the road," Cuomo said. "So this event is to bring you into Woodburn, to see Woodburn, enjoy the culture and to give you a passport that will allow you to come back on your own and enjoy over the next year."

Visitors can pick up a food passport at the City of Woodburn booth in the plaza. The passport — of which there are 2,000 in English and 500 in Spanish — lists more than two dozen restaurants for which people can visit to get a stamp. The restaurants are divided into regions represented by their cuisine, specifically by Mexican states.

"As a non-Latino, I wondered why there were so many different Mexican restaurants, but I've learned that they are different, and I thought it would be great to share that with others who are not familiar," Johnk said. "It's been an education for staff."

Locally owned Asian, Russian and American restaurants are also represented in the pages of the passport, which was paid for through a sponsorship with Republic Services.

"The passport is the year-round piece that continues to bring people back (to Woodburn)," Cuomo explained. "People have said that driving through Woodburn, there's just fast food. So this opens up their eyes to the food we have and the variety there is. There's a lot of Mexican food but there's so much more."

Restaurants aren't the only destinations listed in the passports: One section lists "things to do" that patrons can take to destinations like a garden center or the historic Settlemier House.

"It's nice for people to get something to eat, but this has them thinking, 'What else can we do while we're in Woodburn?'" Cuomo said.

Once passport holders get a certain number of stamps, they can turn them in at City Hall in exchange for a keychain, magnet and T-shirt (based on a yet-to-be-determined tier system). A grand prize is also in the works for those who come close to completing the passport.

The hope is to attract both Woodburn residents and out-of-towners by marketing over social media and at the Woodburn Premium Outlets, which has been an active partner.

"Come celebrate and enjoy, we're in the downtown Mecca of Latino foods, we have the highest number of Mexican restaurants per capita (in the state), so come check out our restaurants and our downtown," Cuomo said. "It's an opportunity to show off what we have."

Schedule

Saturday, June 2

• 12:30-1:30 p.m.: Grupo Azteca Huitzilopochitli

• 2-3 p.m.: Rebel Sound

• 3-4 p.m.: Salsa food competition

• 3-4:30 p.m.: Reedy 300

• 5-6 p.m.: Dreadlight

• 6:30-7 p.m.: Marissa Berkey

• 7-9 p.m.: Inevitable

Sunday, June 3

• 12:30-1:30 p.m.: Cosecha Mestiza folkloric dance

• 2-3:30 p.m.: Billy and the Rockets

• 4-6 p.m.: Dina Y Los Rumberos; dance demonstration, lesson and competition.

Lindsay Keefer can be reached at 503-765-1193 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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