Rows of tables topped with striped multicolor fabrics, grinders and bowls of red chili, and pasilla and black chili pepper coated the Kern County Fairgrounds with color Sunday at the 16th annual Menudo Cook-off.
More than 70 teams brought pot-fulls of the traditional Mexican soup, and thousands -- organizers estimate close to 15,000 -- packed the fairgrounds for tastes.
Team number 21 had decorated its tables with trappings of Mexican culture and history -- an agave plant used to make tequila, a picture of Mexican Revolution leader Emiliano Zapata and a wooden grinder used to crush strained corn into tortillas.
Alfredo Marron Jr., 53, said the portrait and display were part of the culture.
"It's part of the history," he said.
He similarly described the menudo his son, Alfredo Marron III, was making.
Their family has been making the dish for generations.
They entered the competition "to win," Marron Jr. said; and win, they did.
The team took home a first-place trophy for a display contest at the cook-off.
But mother of the family, Crescencia Penaloza, said menudo is about more than winning a competition.
It's a way to bring the family together and to teach the next generation an important part of their history: food.
"I don't want my kids to forget how our food comes about," she said -- through the hard work of Mexican ancestors, Penaloza added.
Blodgie Rodriguez, board chairwoman of the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Mexican families made menudo -- or what started as peasants' food -- because they had little else to eat.
"It was the scraps of the cow," she said.
"It's become a delicacy," Rodriguez added.
The Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce began the cook-off as a fundraiser for the organization 16 years ago and decided to keep menudo the center attraction.
The dish contains tripe or parts of cow stomach, pig's feet, spices and corn.
The blend was most often spicy Sunday, but taste-testers scooped cups of the red-orange soup without pause.
They tasted, danced and talked as musicians sent vibrating blasts of salsa and popular music through the fairgrounds.
It lingered into a parking lot near an array of bounce houses and a rock-climbing wall.
Children waving cardboard fans walked from activity to activity and through sea of vendors passing out kettle corn, frozen fruit bars and plates of nachos.
Adults stood in line to purchase frozen treats and cold drinks with as much enthusiasm as the children.
Sisters Shellie Camargo and Phyllis Tijerina sipped cups of beer and purchased matching hats to fight the sun's blaze.
Tijerina made a trip from Paso Robles and Camargo from her home in Bakersfield to taste the menudo they say is part of many Sunday afternoons in Hispanic families.
Camargo said "Menudo every Sunday" is the norm.