Klayton Roark contributed video and facts to this article.
After about 20 years of bouncing between bars in east Phoenix, Marla Hooch’s Annual Chili and Salsa Cookoff landed in Melrose this past March. Named for the explosively spicy second-basewoman in Penny Marshall’s cult classic A League of Their Own, Hooch’s entrants compete each year to out-sauce each other, while raising money for the Cactus Cities Softball League.
The competition found a new home just outside Charlie’s Bar on 7th Avenue and Camelback. “Everything went really well,” said League Commissioner John Deffe March 24. “There’s different organizations (competing) including community groups, restaurants, and businesses.” Deffe said 65 contestants shared 44 booths, some boasting both chili and salsa. Entrants included football, volleyball, and kickball teams as well. “We have quite a few sports here, actually,” Deffe said.
“(Cactus) does this like every year,” said Alex Sanchez. “I’ve been on the softball team for three years, but this is the first year I made chili.” The winners were not listed on the Cactus League website as of May 1, but cash prizes ranged $200-$600 for the top three Chilis, and $100-$300 for salsas. Deffe said attendees were charged $10 and also received a taster’s kit and entrance to a concert by Los Chicos Del 512, a Selena tribute band.