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Competitors bring the heat to help battle Alzheimer’s
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Oakdale resident Mandy Raff, second from right in purple shirt, looks on as judges taste test the wide variety of salsas submitted for competition as part of a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. The judging was done Sunday at the local Dying Breed Brewing in Oakdale. Marg Jackson/The Leader

It was billed as ‘The Longest Day sALZa to end ALZ’ – and the salsa competition saw plenty of entries on Sunday, June 9.

Hosted at Dying Breed Brewing on Shepard Court in Oakdale, coordinator was Mandy Raff, an Oakdale resident who saw her father battle Alzheimer’s for years.

There were 16 salsas entered among the 10 competitors signed up, noted Raff, and this was the second year the salsa competition was hosted at the local brewery.

“I’ve been participating in The Longest Day; this is my sixth year participating,” Raff explained. “The cool thing about The Longest Day is you get to pick what you want to do for your fundraiser, you can be as creative as you want.”

Along with putting together an event in the community where she lives, Raff also serves as chairperson of the Northern California/Nevada Longest Day Committee. The Longest Day is an annual fundraising event to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association as it works toward a cure while supporting those currently dealing with the disease.

“For the last two years, salsa really hit home and Dying Breed’s been an awesome host to us,” said Raff. “Salsa was really important to me and my dad; we had a family recipe that we would make together and this is why I do it, for my dad.”

Raff said they contacted local taquerias to get involved as well as posting information about the competition on social media to gain interest and sign up contestants.

Judges included the Dying Breed brewer Nick Denning, Last Call brewer Walter Ramirez, Oakdale City Councilmember Kayleigh Gilbert, Dying Breed ‘Mug Club’ member Larry Cisneros and Austin Steves of the local Steves Chevrolet, which also recently conducted a large fundraising campaign on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Those stopping by Dying Breed on Sunday could also pay a small fee for a chance to taste test and vote for their favorites. There were also several silent auction items to bid on and local resident Riley Miller was on stage providing the entertainment.

Raff said the overall goal she set for fundraising – with the link on her website open for several months – is $60,000. The company she works for, Premier Nutrition out of Emeryville, provided a large start-up donation, helping her get closer to the goal.

Sunday’s total was just over $6,000 raised and donations can still be made at Raff’s fundraising page:

“The silent auction is huge, we are so blessed with all the donations, and the live music, Riley Miller is also an Oakdale native,” Raff noted. “From the overall campaign, we are nearly at our total fundraising goal of $60,000.”

There were winners chosen by the Judges and also the People’s Choice, where those sampling the salsas could pay one dollar for one vote. Both red and green salsas were included in the competition.

Results are as follows:

Judges Red: Winner, Jason Brum; Runner Up, Debbie Xavier.

Judges Green: Winner, Bertha Garcia; Runner Up, Maria from Taqueria Riverbank #2.

People’s Choice: Winner, Bertha Garcia; Runner Up, Christina Gauthier; Third Place, Millie from Viva Taqueria.

Red salsa entries included One Hot Mama’s, Jason Brum, Mama Stephs Salsa, Deserie Munoz, Cocina Michoacana, Bertha Garcia, Taqueria Riverbank #2, Debbie Xavier, Christina Gauthier.

Green salsa entries were Viva Taqueria, Jason Brum, Mama Stephs Salsa, One Hot Mama – Verde, One Hot Mama – Avocado, Bertha Garcia, Taqueria Riverbank #2.

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On stage at Dying Breed Brewing on Sunday, providing the entertainment during a special fundraising salsa competition, Riley Miller was right at home, playing his guitar and singing for the crowd. Marg Jackson/The Leader
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A row of salsa experts is ready to hand out samples for those in attendance at Oakdale’s Dying Breed Brewing on Sunday, June 9 during a special fundraising event. Marg Jackson/The Leader