It's getting hot in here: National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show ready to heat up Sandia

Feb. 28—Red or green?

That's the traditional question asked by many New Mexicans.

When it comes to the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, their question is — "How hot?"

The annual event is back at Sandia Resort and Casino for three days — Friday, March 1, through Sunday, March 3.

This year, Mark Masker of Sunbelt Shows is at the helm of the long-running event.

"I was mentored by Dave DeWitt and his family for 10 years," Masker says of the Fiery Foods founder. "Now I got the job and it's crazy. There's some big shoes to fill. What I've been trying to do is keep the good parts of the show. Then I'm taking time to tweak and change some things to modernize the show."

Masker is ready for the challenge — with some reservations.

"It's like me and the team are going from drivers ed to driving a Formula One car," he says with a laugh. "We're ready for the race."

Masker says hundreds of exhibitors are preparing their best fiery gourmet foods, sauces, spices, sweet-heat treats and rubs to showcase Fiery Foods.

The event will feature more than 1,000 different products from the United States and around the world for tasting and purchase. Johnny and Tommy Scoville of the "Chase the Heat" on YouTube and "Superhot" on Hulu will be at the event on Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3.

The Fiery Foods Show is the country's largest gathering of fiery food products and barbecue sauces.

"People are ready to spice it up this year," Masker says. "This year is sure to be hot."

On Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3, outdoor cooking demonstrations will be held on the outdoor patio showcasing Disc-It Cookers and Sidewinder Grills.

While many exhibitors will display their award-winning selections, others will showcase first-time products.

Attendees can also enjoy select Scovie Award-winning products, recognized as the top fiery food products in the world.

The annual competition organized by the producers of the Fiery Foods Show is one of the most competitive blind-tasting food competitions in the U.S. and receives hundreds of entries each year.

Masker says one major change to the event is on Saturday, March 2, attendees will be able to get into the event at 9 a.m.

Last year, the event was overridden with an efficiency problem when it came to getting attendees onto the event floor.

"It was awesome because we had so many people showing up," he says. "But it wasn't good for the attendees because the lines were too long. I think opening up the time will help that. I've also been working with Sandia to ensure that the lines will go a lot faster this year. We all want it to be a good event. This is one of those events that has grown due to word of mouth."

The number of exhibitors stands at 141, Masker says.

"Normally it's about 135," he says. "This year, we had 70 companies on the waitlist and we were sold out of booths in November. I wanted to open more booths and we were able to find space in the hallway with nine more booths."

In previous years, the three-day event would see about 17,000 attendees at the show.

After COVID, Sandia Resort & Casino officials put limits on how many people could be on the floor.

"It was brought down to about 3,000," he says. "That's one of the reasons I've made some of the changes that I did. The busiest day is always Saturday, so we're hoping that the crowds will ebb and flow throughout the three days."