Youngest salsa competitor looks to make her mark at this year’s SalsaFest

Contributed Photo: Rylee Clonts, 10, of Solomon is the youngest competitor in this year’s SalsaFest Challenge competition.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – The “Sweet 16” SalsaFest will commence this Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23, and 24, and will feature salsa makers of all ages and experiences. One contestant, 10-year-old Rylee Clonts, of Solomon, looks to show off her salsa skills against longstanding regulars. 

Contributed Photo: Riley Clonts looks to dazzle as the youngest competitor in this year’s SalsaFest Challenge.

Rylee is the youngest competitor in this year’s SalsaFest Challenge but is no newcomer to the salsa game. According to her mother, Jennie Clonts, the family has been enjoying Rylee’s salsa since she was 8. 

“She makes salsa for our family all the time,” Jennie said. “She does it independently, so she is going to do it (the competition) all by herself. She’s got her sisters to help with some of the prep work, but Rylee will be the sole maker.”

Rylee got her taste for the popular condiment through family functions such as birthday parties and has been a fan for as long as she remembers. 

“I’ve always loved salsa,” Rylee said.

In addition to making salsa, Rylee enjoys playing sports and is looking forward to watching the Chihuahua Races at the SalsaFest this Saturday, but her favorite part of the festival is the food. 

The secret to Rylee’s salsa starts with her family’s recipe, which creates a “hot” salsa, according to Rylee, just the type she likes. 

But we invite all to judge for themselves as they taste Rylee’s and all the other contestants’ entries in this year’s SalsaFest. 

The festival begins Friday with a fine art sale at the Safford Theatre beginning at 10 a.m., with opening ceremonies for the SalsaFest commencing at 5 p.m. at the Safford City Hall lawn. 

The festival reopens on Saturday, beginning with the car show registration at the MVD parking lot at 7 a.m., and Transcendence Massage Yoga at 8 a.m. The festival will close Saturday night at 10 p.m. 

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Rylee’s name as Riley.