Moffat County salsa queen Joanne Roberson won’t share her secret recipe, but she’ll share plenty else
Joanne Roberson knows the Moffat County Fair.
A former member of the Fair Board who’s worn a half-dozen or more other leadership hats within the fair’s organization, Roberson knows and loves the ins and outs of the annual event.
This year she’ll have to miss out on experiencing the fair fun in person, unfortunately. Roberson, who’s undergoing a surgical procedure too close to fair week to be present herself, will miss dearly her beloved event this year.
“It’s sad,” Roberson, 69, said. “It’s so fun to go down and see what everybody’s brought. But it’s OK. That’s the way it goes. My friends will take pictures and show me. It’s good.”
But frequenters of the fair need not fear — unless they are entrants in the homemade salsa category at the open class competition — though absent in body, Roberson’s wares will be present as ever this year.
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“Someone will bring it all down for me,” Roberson said. “I won’t be able to go, but I’ll have some things together to enter. It’s fun. We need that. Pastimes, people, you’ve got to keep it going.”
Roberson is the four-years-running defending grand champion in the salsa competition, her roma tomato-based condiment the topper in its class since she started entering it five years ago.
“I almost don’t want to, because I know people know I’ll do it, but it’s fun,” Roberson said. “I want someone to compete with.”
Roberson brings the very same recipe to the fair every year. It’s a recipe that she keeps very much to herself — she jokes that her husband would divorce her if she gave it away — but of which she shares the results with great joy.
Friends and family from out of state have Roberson ship them cases of it, she said.
“Everyone says I need to sell the recipe, but I don’t know how to get a hold of them to do that,” Roberson said with a smile. “Everybody loves it.”
Roberson also makes dozens of jams and jellies, including a very popular raspberry jalapeno, she said, but the salsa is the big ticket.
“It’s a sickness,” she said with a chortle.
The secret recipe took many years to hone, she said, but it came in part out of not liking a particular store brand of the product.
“I didn’t like one in the store — and everybody says, ‘Doesn’t yours have sugar?’ but no, it’s roma tomatoes, they’re the meaty, sweet ones — but you taste something and think how can I improve it or what can I take away?” Roberson said. “That’s how I do it.”
For Roberson, the fair is a central moment of the year. It’s why she’s dedicated so much of her adult life to making it great.
“It brings everybody together, I think,” she said. “A lot of people you don’t see, or don’t know what they’re doing, they bring it to the fair, and, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re up to.’ And it’s good for our community to interact with people who you haven’t seen before. County fair is fun. Don’t take it too seriously. But it’s fun.”
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include a response from the Bureau of Land Management’s national office.