Can anyone tell me anything about the...
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival held in Austin on the last Sunday in August? I've been invited to be a judge for next year's (2006) Festival. I've never been to Austin, only to Dallas and San Antonio.
I live on the East Coast, but have had pleasant acquaintances with Red Savinas and Chocolate Habaneros. I've grown the former cultivar in my small chile garden for several years. The latter cultivar will join the former one for the first time next spring.
I can't tell you anything about the festival, only that anything called a "festival" in Austin will be a great party -- this is the city that makes a gathering about Spam a joyous time. You would be silly to miss an excuse to visit Austin.
I envy anyone who is given the chance to be a judge.
(It probably beats judging Spamaramamamama)
Be prepared for the heat while you're here, though depending on where on the East Coast you live, it may seem like a cool break from routine.
Make sure you have enough time to try some of the excellent foods this town has to offer. We could probably argue for days about which Mexican restaurants (or bbq) you need to try. Or you could just read past postings and save some old fogeys from having to take their blood pressure medicine.
Also, if I recall correctly, this year the festival fell on the same weekend as the Keep Austin Weird Festival (which was unsatisfyingly normal, though fun).
I have been a judge for the past two years, and will point you to the link below, and it is as good of a description on what you are getting yourself into as any.
Being a judge is fun, but if you were just an attendee, I'd recommend that you get there as early as possible, before the lines form for the hot sauces. It is around 100 degrees outside, but luckily for us judges, we are in the air conditioned confines of Serrano's restaurant, just across the street from the festival, drinking lots of water and beer. You will get a free t-shirt for your efforts!! See you there!