Festival celebrates 10 years with food truck and wedding giveaway
By Samantha Molina
The Arizona Taco Festival is marking its 10th anniversary by moving to bigger confines to accommodate lovers of the traditional Mexican dish.
The popular Scottsdale happening will move from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to WestWorld of Scottsdale for the Saturday, October 12, and Sunday, October 13, party.
“We are really excited to see everyone come out and celebrate the culture and their love of tacos,” says Rick Phillips, the festival’s founder.
“Especially with our fantastic new venue. Our home this year will allow us to expand and enhance the experiences of our guests.”
To celebrate the decade mark, the festival is launching a taco truck in anticipation of the nationally recognized event. The mobile festival will visit various Valley locales and serve free tacos and festival tickets.
At WestWorld, more than 50 taco teams will sell $3 beef, chicken, pork, seafood and veggie tacos. The restaurants are competing for a $10,000 prize along with the “best tacos” moniker. Among the flavors this year are street poke and sushi tacos, as well as pineapple and mango.
One of this year’s vendors, Dos Gringos Mexi-Grill, has been in Arizona since 1984 and is a favorite among college students. Amber Cesena, the restaurant’s marketing director, says the taco chain has been competing in the festival since 2012 and doesn’t intend to miss this year’s event.
“The festival is a way for us to remind locals of who we are,” Cesena says. “While we are all about food, fun and good times, our dishes aren’t just meant for drunken nights. It’s an elevated experience.”
Her staff will serve chicken and carnitas tacos, and chips and salsa to the expected 35,000 guests. She is grateful to have the chance to reach new customers via the festival.
Besides feasting on Mexican cuisine, guests can enjoy tequila, Lucha Libre wrestling with bleacher seating, a DJ, indoor bar and a hot sauce expo.
“One of the more popular attractions we have is our tequila expo where guests can sample more 100 different kinds of agave-based spirits,” Phillips says. “It’s also extremely fun to watch our hot chili pepper contest. There’s always a lot of tears and red faces.”
The hot sauce expo is new this year and curated by Vic Clinco, the owner of the largest hot sauce collection.
Foodies can test their love for tacos by entering the Taco Gordo-eating contest. Those brave enough to compete will only have 6 minutes to chow down six stuffed tacos as fast as possible. The person with the fastest time wins the contest.
Dog lovers will be in for a treat with the Chihuahua beauty pageant hosted by Miss USA. More than 20 costumed chihuahuas from around the state will strut their stuff on the runway.
A pop-up exhibit, Taco-topia, is an interactive museum that features a mechanical taco, a lime wedge swing and a series of Instagram ready backdrops.
The festival is giving away a Day of the Dead-themed wedding that will take place on Sunday with a licensed officiant, a hair and makeup stylist and 10 passes to the VIP Cantina and Tequila Expo for the lucky couple’s wedding party.
Music is a large part of the festival. Regional music acts will perform various genres live throughout the events duration, including multiple sets from festival favorite DJ Sean Derek.
The general admission ticket buys your way into the festival as well as Taco-topia. Food, drink and other items can be bought separately, using purchased tokens. The event is cashless, and there will be no ATM machine provided at the event.
The Arizona Taco Festival is one of the largest taco festivals in the nation. It debuted in 2009 as the world’s first taco festival.
“We started this festival with the goal of bringing the locals together and having fun,” Phillips says, “I think that we have achieved that year after year. Our event isn’t known as the ‘biggest and baddest’ for nothing—and who doesn’t love tacos?” ν