Tucson to host first ever Taco Festival on Saturday

Gear up for Cinco de Mayo with taco throwdowns, eating contests and margaritas

By Cecelia Marshall Published April 27, 2012 at 10:34am for Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tacos, tacos and more tacos! Tucson will hold its first ever Tucson Taco Festival this Saturday from 11 a.m.to 7 p.m. at the Rillito Downs.  The inaugural celebration, inspired by last fall’s Scottsdale Taco Festival, leaves locals wondering: Why have we never had a taco festival in Tucson before?

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By PATRICIA BECK
Fish tacos. (Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Though it’s the food that will draw crowds in this weekend, this isn’t just another “Tucson Eat Yourself.” There are also events and competitions, including a taco throwdown in which 25 taco making competitors will submit their best taco creations to be judged for a potential prize of $1,200. Contestants here are serious, and range from amateurs to local restaurants including Rubios, Maynard’s Market and Kitchen, and Sir Veza’s Taco Garage.

Although the festival has selected certified and experienced judges from the National Taco Association to make the rulings, attendees can still judge the competition for themselves. For $2, guests can also partake in samples from the throwdown.

And of course, no food festival is complete without an eating contest.  For those who can handle the heat, the Hot Chile Pepper Eating contest is sure to be a spectacle. The Super Macho Taco Eating Challenge will also separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls by seeing who can eat the most tacos in the shortest amount of time.

To make it even better, local bartenders will also compete to create the best margaritas. Samples are free, so be sure to stop by before the tent runs out of cold drinks.

If you’re drinking, or just don’t want to worry about parking, the festival provides a free shuttle that will pick people up from Old Main every hour between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Tickets into the festival are $10, and proceeds benefit the Anne Rita Monahan Foundation to ARM Yourself Against Ovarian Cancer.

Click here for more information and a schedule of activities.

And if you can’t make it to the festival, but would like to expand your taco making horizons, check out this unique recipe for Achiote-Rubbed Butternut Squash Tacos, from Nick Kindlesperger at Serious Eats.

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